Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Oswald Cobblepot was born into money, but he was shunned from Gotham's high society because he's not exactly as handsome as Bruce Wayne. So he takes beloved birds and the penguin nickname he'd been teased with as a kid and goes into career villainy. Traditionally, he's just a standard criminal with a bird theme and a variety of umbrella weapons, but recently he's been transformed as the owner of the Iceberg Lounge nightclub who has more criminal connections than anyone (and conducts his business just as ruthlessly as his mafia friends).

Pros: Penguin, along with the Riddler and Catwoman, is one of the most famous villains yet to appear in the movie series, and his inclusion would please many fans. Although his

Cons: People either associate the character with Burgess Meredith or Danny DeVito. While I love Burgess Meredith's version, neither is at all what a Christopher Nolan Batman villain should be. When people hear about him being in the movie, they might get the wrong idea and avoid it. Penguin is also not physically imposing, so a movie with Penguin would lack a satisfying fight scene at the end. Plus, as I mentioned in Catwoman's entry, one of the writers said they wouldn't use any of the bad guys from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher films, and Christopher Nolan specifically said in an interview with Esquire that "There are certain characters that are easier to mesh with the more real take on Batman we're doing. The Penguin would be tricky."

How I'd do it: The most important thing would be to get away from the Danny DeVito version. A mutated freak won't work. Physically, he'd just have to be an ugly chubby dude with a big nose. Jason Aaron, writer of Scalped, wrote a fantastic Penguin one shot (from which the above image was taken) for the Joker's Asylum series, which is probably the best Penguin story I've ever read. It captures the character, especially as it would work in a Dark Knight follow-up, perfectly. A rich nightclub owner with mob ties, ugly, wounded, and with a vicious mean streak.

Casting Guesses: Philip Seymour Hoffman was the rumor going around for a while, and he could certainly pull it off, but even though I did already suggest him for Hugo Strange, Paul Giamatti could nail it. UPDATE: Bob Hoskins is being rumored for the part as well, and he'd be a fine choice.

Verdict: It could be done, but I think it's a long shot, given what we've heard from the creative team. A few weeks ago I would've said no way, but that Jason Aaron book really revived my interest in the character.


Chet said...

I think The Penguin could definately work in the next Batman installment, and Phillip Seymore Hoffman would be ideal...not just because of his physical appearance, but his acting chops as well.
It'd go like this: Oswald Cobblepot runs the most glamourous and popular nightclub in Gotham; what Club 54 was to New York. All of Gotham's biggest names and socialites go there to be seen, and "The Penguin" is the MC, like the Ringmaster in Moulin Rouge. In this world, The Penguin is the public image- the monocle, the umbrellas, the tuxedo- all part of a character Cobblepot plays for the cameras, and the media adores him. As soon as he gets backstage, though, the monocle and top hat come off and we see cobblepot for what he really is...mover and shaker of the Gotham underworld, who bugs his 'playground of the rich' in order to know who has what. This Cobblepot is a ruthless, untouchable bully, and a creditable foil for both Batman and Bruce Wayne (who competes with Cobblepot when the cameras are rolling.) Hoffman can play both the flamboyant media darling, but he can also play the maddeningly mean mobster (I'm thinking of his role in Punch Drunk Love here. Someone the audience will truly despise.)
Having the villain be a popular celebrity will contrast nicely with Batman being a criminal on the run, and make it that much harder for Batman to prove Penguin's guilt.
I'd also like to see Two-Face return somehow and be a sometimes ally, sometimes antagonist to Batman. They could delve more into Two-face's multiple personality syndrome, which would contrast nicely with both Cobblepot's and Bruce Wayne's dual personalites. Duality could be over-arching theme of the new film.

Chet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The Penguin can work, but not as the 60's version and not as the grotesque Burton version. He could work as a mob boss or some kind of arms dealer, possibly an incompetent one. They'll have their work cut out for them though, Burton's the only one who's succeeded in making The Penguin menacing.

I just feel that anything you could do with The Penguin can be done better with any other mob-affiliated character like Rupert Thorne.