It’s not exactly a secret that Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot on its plate. The film has to continue the story for Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent, while also introducing a plethora of new characters to the blossoming DC Extended Universe. Among the high profile additions are Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as the new Lex Luthor, and possible cameos for other members of the Justice League. Even with 2.5 hours to cover everything, some feel as if Snyder has bitten off more than he can chew and overstuffed his latest comic book adaptation.
Even though there’s a fairly large ensemble in Batman V Superman, Snyder did show some restraint in how many characters were included. Not only were entire roles removed from the theatrical cut (Jena Malone), some never made it past the developmental stage. At one point, classic Batman villains the Joker and the Riddler were meant to be shown, but Snyder ultimately decided against it.
Snyder revealed this tidbit to Collider, saying that he and screenwriter Chris Terrio spent a considerable amount of time discussing how it could work before reaching the conclusion that it would be for Batman V Superman‘s benefit if the evildoers did not appear:
“The Joker and The Riddler both came close to being in this movie. We talked about the possibility of putting them in. [Screenwriter] Chris Terrio and I talked about it a lot and felt that their mythological presence is felt in the movie and that’s cool, but I didn’t want to get my eye too far off the ball because I needed to spend the time, frankly, with Batman and Superman to understand the conflict.”
Based on what we know about Dawn of Justice, it’s very difficult to see how the Riddler or the Joker could have fit into the story naturally. The philosophical and physical battle of wills between the two titular heroes is set to take up a considerable amount of screen time, before Batman and Superman set aside their differences to stop a larger threat in Doomsday (with the aid of Wonder Woman). The Riddler and the Joker are intimidating menaces in their own right, but they typically do not require the combined strength of three superheroes to be defeated, so their inclusion would in all likelihood come across as forced without contributing much to the overall narrative of Batman V Superman. It’s wisest that Snyder held off on using them.
Even though the Gotham rogues won’t be making a physical appearance in the film, Batman V Superman isn’t going to ignore them entirely. One of the Dawn of Justice trailers includes Bruce Wayne mentioning his city’s troubled history with “freaks dressed like clowns,” and the Joker seems to be the one behind the defacing of a Robin costume seen in the new Batcave (alluding to Jason Todd’s murder in the comic storyline “A Death in the Family”). Smaller nuggets and Easter eggs like that are a smarter, more logical way of highlighting the built-in history of the world without taking away from the central focus of the movie. If the Riddler and/or the Joker showed up and didn’t have much to do, it would be disappointing for fans and be reminiscent of the failed universe building in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Warner Bros. obviously has big plans for the Joker, with Jared Leto a principal player in this summer’s Suicide Squad, but it will be interesting to see if the Riddler factors into a later film. He was an antagonist in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, which is hardly a definitive take on the character. It would be nice to see the Riddler get rebooted within the DCEU continuity as a strong, compelling villain for a solo Batman movie. Viewers will just have to wait and see.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, which is followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.