Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Batman.
Is the Joker in The Batman? Matt Reeves’ first Dark Knight movie in the new rebooted timeline introduced the world to Robert Pattinson’s haunted, brilliant Batman, facing off against Paul Dano’s Zodiac-like Riddler. With John Turturro’s Falconi, Colin Farrell’s Penguin, and Zoe Kravitz’s morally ambiguous Catwoman thrown in, the Year Two Gotham City is already packed with villains, but the future will get worse and busier for Batman. Whether Joker would be part of that future was always going to be a big question.
There have now been four Jokers in Batman movies (including an Elseworlds origin story, of course), from Jack Nicholson’s crime lord through to Jared Leto’s divisive, flamboyant pimp-type. Some may believe that is enough, but Batman cannot exist without his nemesis, no matter how long it takes him to face off. In Reeves’ Gotham, the ending of The Batman sets up a power vacuum into which Batman’s rogues’ gallery will no doubt grow, offering ample opportunities to introduce some of DC’s most recognizable villains. There are already major hints that Hush will appear in The Batman 2, Penguin will return in his own spin-off, and there’s huge potential for Reeves to explore some of the other Batman villains who have not yet appeared in movies.
Having a new Batman without a new Joker is always wrong, even with Joaquin Phoenix’s version of the Joker complicating the canon, so it is more a matter of when and not if he will arrive in Matt Reeves’ new Batman universe. Here’s everything you need to know about how The Batman sets up the Joker and how he could be a significant part in Pattinson’s Dark Knight sequels.
Is The Joker In The Batman? Who Plays The Arkham Prisoner
The Joker is in The Batman, with Matt Reeves’ movie introducing a brand new version of the iconic Dark Knight villain. The Riddler’s final moments in the movie reveal that he’s in a cell next to door to a shadowy figure who wants to make friends. Though he’s not seen fully, the figure is played by Barry Keoghan, sporting both an American accent and what appears to be a heavily scarred face. Even through the open door grate of his cell, it looks like Keoghan’s Joker will be inspired by the Death Of The Family Joker who removed and regrafted his own face. After offering Riddler a riddle that suggests the pair team up, Joker reveals his new laugh, in chilling fashion – an almost innocent but very creepy variation on the previous Jokers.
The casting is genius, even with so little of Barry Keoghan’s Joker shown. Because the Eternals star, who has been revealed to play a part in Matt Reeves’ Dark Knight reboot, could be the perfect new foil to Robert Pattinson’s Batman. And the idea of the Riddler and the Joker teaming up either in The Batman 2 or another later sequel is incredibly exciting. With the suggestion of an Arkham spin-off TV show following The Batman, there may be some opportunity to see more of both Dano and Keoghan (assuming they don’t escape in the meantime), but the ultimate payoff will be them combining their mental and physical might to take on Pattinson’s Batman again.
Why The Batman Needed A Completely New Joker
Though Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker was a revelation – and a defiantly bitten thumb to the suggestion that Joker didn’t need an origin – his leap across to The Batman’s DCEU annex was never likely. Sure, there could be more interesting stories to tell in that alternate universe, but let it be told away from Matt Reeves’ story and let’s all just enjoy the promise of more Batman without a continuity care in the world. More complex for The Batman is the shadow of the former Jokers a new iteration would have to compete with. Romero, Nicholson, and Ledger all offered definitive takes for different strokes, and Leto was an admirable if somewhat misguided swing for something formidable and new, and Reeves’ Joker needs to compete with and compliment them all. Like the previous movie Jokers, Keoghan’s version arrives in Arkham fully formed, even without a backstory, but the idea of him starting in captivity is an interesting new variation on the subject.
And before the inevitable accusations that Batman movies need to be braver than returning to the same font of inspiration each time, the Joker is not to be mothballed. Yes, there is a significant Batman Rogues Gallery that has not been explored yet, but the Joker is Batman’s outrageous mirror, whose perverse showmanship is the antithesis of a vengeful, shadowy maverick. To not have him involved would be a fundamental imbalance; an unsatisfyingly half-told story. And at least in the Arkham setup, there would be innovation and difference from inception.
The Batman Hints The Joker Was Active In Pattinson’s Gotham
The early footage of The Batman and the first trailer both included what appeared to be a gang of clowns terrorizing Gotham. The movie reveals that sequence to be Pattinson’s Batman introduction, in which he shows off his new brand of ultraviolence against one of those very mooks. They appear to simply be a band of Gotham hoodlums, but without a master, the clowns seem curiously illogical. They aren’t working as part of the Penguin and Falconi’s criminal organization, and are removed from Paul Dano’s new Riddler but their choice of look is very telling. Sure, the clowns might have been just some of the criminal detritus of Gotham but there’s no smoke without fire, and not having a Joker pay-off would be like showing riddles and not setting up The Riddler. It’s particularly interesting that they have scars drawn on their faces, given the reveal at the end of the Joker’s mutilated face. Perhaps they were inspired to a life of crime by the Joker’s exploits when he was free in the same way Riddler became a beacon for Gothamites sick of corruption.
From a more symbolic point of view, The Batman is a formative story for Pattinson’s Bat. He’s naive and volatile and though it’s not an origin story, it is very much one centered on how the filth of Gotham shapes the Dark Knight. Intriguingly, there is even the suggestion of him being tempted into a more criminal part of the moral spectrum with Dano’s Riddler offering another black mirror to him. But that formative experience also needs balance and introducing the presence of his greatest nemesis in the early stages of his own journey is the perfect answer. From out of the Riddler-made wreckage, both sides of the coin can emerge for a sequel story.
Why Barry Keoghan Will Be A Perfect Joker
Keoghan’s career so far has followed a similar interesting trajectory to his ‘71 co-star Jack O’Connell: great British productions, astutely chosen to either put him in the proximity of great talent or great work. He’s been a part of the brutal and the beautiful, creatively speaking and in the wake of his critically acclaimed roles in The Killing of a Secret Deer and Calm With Horses, he’s now unquestionably “broken through”. He’s already worked with incredibly gifted directors in a broad spectrum of roles that test his own range including the unique challenge of making a mark as Druig in Marvel’s huge Eternals cast. That he managed to do so should come as no surprise.
His roles also tell more than just his good career choices: there’s a vein of characters steeped in crime or forced through unthinkable trauma, who all retain his irresistible roguish charisma. He’s somewhat like a rougher/edged Cillian Murphy, shaped differently by his amateur boxing background, perhaps, but with the same disarming charm. He’s proved himself capable of ticking several boxes that a new Joker would benefit from: convincing violence credentials, charisma, inherent darker edges, and the same unexpected element that benefited Heath Ledger. There’s only the slightest flash of what his performance can be in The Batman universe, but he manages to be both creepy and compelling in that short screentime, and his new Joker laugh already sounds perfect. It’s just a shame it’ll take so long to see his fully formed villain.
- The Batman (2022)Release date: Mar 04, 2022
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