Spoiler warning: If you haven’t yet seen Joker and plan on doing so, now’s your chance to stop reading. The rest of this story will be littered with movie plot points and spoilers. You have been warned!
- Joker director Todd Phillips has said there won’t be a sequel with Joaquin Phoenix.
- Bruce and Thomas Wayne, however, appear in the Joker.
- These easter eggs may connect the Joker and the upcoming Batman with Robert Pattinson.
One of the creepiest moments in Joker comes when Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), the deeply unstable party clown who eventually becomes the film’s titular character, meets a young, very wealthy child by the name of Bruce Wayne. He asks his name, hands him a trick magic wand, and makes flowers appear from thin air, all while separated by a massive estate gate (outside of the supervillain origin story, Joker also makes some not-so-veiled commentary on class warfare). Of course, there’s no twist involving a character named Bruce Wayne: everyone knows that kid is eventually becoming Batman.
While director Todd Phillips has maintained that Joker was planned only as a standalone movie, there are a few easter eggs within the film that could very clearly and easily connect the movie to any upcoming DC movie that could be set in Gotham City, mainly 2021’s The Batman, which will star Robert Pattinson as the titular character. Plus, as much as Phillips says that Joker is meant to stand on its own, Warner Bros is also a fan of making money, and after Joker earned $93.5 million in its opening weekend, we’d have to imagine the studio is angling for a way to parlay that early success into continued future success.
How could Joker connect to The Batman?
Two key pieces could directly tie Joker into The Batman. First, of course, is that the story is set in Gotham City. The New York City surrogate has always been Batman’s home, and of course, therefore is the home of the Joker.
More directly, though, is Joker‘s presence of the Wayne family. Thomas Wayne is one of the movie’s primary antagonist, the person who the ‘clown’ protest in the second half of the film begins rallying against. In a way, one could argue that Thomas Wayne’s blunt and utter rejection of Arthur helps to ‘create’ the violent and anarchistic Joker that emerges at the end of the film.
At the end of the film—after Arthur/Joker kills talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) live on air—Gotham City is immediately run amok with riots; fires are everywhere, Joker is broken out from the back seat of a police car, and (for what feels like the brutally unnecessary the 100th time on screen), the Wayne parents are murdered in the back alley, Martha Wayne’s pearls ripped clear off her neck. This time, their assailant is wearing a clown mask, inspired by the violent movement that Arthur has now spearheaded. He leaves young Bruce alone in the alley, and we all know what happens after that. This could easily serve as a backdoor origin story for Pattinson’s Batman, this time more intertwined with the Joker than ever before.
Will Joaquin Phoenix be in The Batman?
Of course, there’s no Batman without his Joker; Michael Keaton had Jack Nicholson, Christian Bale had Heath Ledger. It’s two sides of the same coin. But with the timeline that Joker presents, it’s hard to imagine Phoenix’s Joker and Pattinson’s Bruce ever existing at the same time.
First, since Bruce exists in the film as a small child, and Arthur is a middle-aged man (Phoenix himself turns 45 later this month), the ages just don’t match up. We don’t ever really know the Joker’s actual age, but it’s hard to imagine an adult Batman (Pattinson will be 35 when The Batman is released) facing off with a Joker in the range of 65 years old.
More likely, the journey that Arthur goes on throughout the course of the film, and the social movement that he eventually represents, could pave the way for a Joker that Pattinson’s Bruce eventually faces off against (similar to the way Gotham presented its own Joker character).
Joker director Todd Phillips alluded to this theory in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. “Maybe Joaquin’s character inspired the Joker,” he told the paper. “You don’t really know. His last line in the movie is, You wouldn’t get it. There’s a lot going on in there that’s interesting.” In the same interview, Phillips also says that even if he were convinced to make a sequel to Joker, he wouldn’t make it a face-off with an adult Batman. “We would never do that,” he said. “No, no. We’d just want to see where he goes from there.“
In a way, the ‘inspiration for the Joker’ angle is an easy out for the producers at DC to connect Joker to their larger universe without feeling an overwhelming pressure to bring Phoenix back for another go-around as the clown prince of crime. Future Batman outings could easily make reference to the events of the movie, and use it as canon, and bring in another new actor to play a more age-appropriate version of the character.
Plus, as strong a performance as Phoenix gives in Joker, his version of the character doesn’t necessarily feel consistent with the other versions that we’ve seen go toe-to-toe with Batman. Ledger’s Joker, for instance, always felt one step ahead, and like he was always strategically planning for something to come, and Phoenix’s Joker, while obviously immensely dangerous, feels like a ticking time bomb. His movement could inspire a character more in line with what we’ve come to expect from Jokers through the decades.
The larger question, is this: after Ledger and Phoenix’s wildly different, but nonetheless totally effective portrayals of the character, who could possibly want to be next? That will remain to be seen.