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Yes, That Surprise ‘Batman’ Cameo Was Who You Thought It Was—Here’s What It Means For Future Movies

Riddler wasn't the only familiar face in "The Batman."
"The Batman"
Image: Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Warning: Batman spoilers ahead. If you’ve seen the Caped Crusader’s latest movie, you may be wondering: Was that the Joker at the end of The Batman?

The Batman, which premiered on March 4, 2022, stars Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne / The Batman as he faces off against the Riddler to save Gotham City. The movie is a reboot of the Batman film franchise, which has starred Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and more actors as the superhero, who was first introduced in the DC Comics of the same name in 1939. The Batman comics follow Bruce, a wealthy playboy from Gotham City who fights crime as the superhero Batman after he witnesses the murder of his parents, Thomas and Martha, as a child. Pattinson is the 12th actor to play Batman in a major movie and the second actor to take on the role after Ben Affleck—who played Batman in the DC Extended Universe’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Justice League and The Flash—retired as the superhero. (Affleck will make his last appearance as Batman in 2023’s The Flash.)

In an interview with Nerdist in 2020, director Matt Reeves explained how his version of Batman, who is in his 30s and younger than previous Batmans, is different than past movies about the character. “I just felt like well, what I’d love to do is to get a version of this Batman character where he’s not yet fully formed. Where there’s something to do in this context with who that guy would be in this world today, and to ground him in all of these broken ways. Because at the end of the day, this guy is doing all of this to deal with trauma in his past,” he said. Producer Dylan Clark also confirmed to Empire in 2021 that Pattinson’s Batman is separate from the DC Extended Universe, which includes heroes like Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman and the Flash. “Warner Bros. has a multiverse where they’re exploring different ways to use the character … We don’t get involved in that. Matt is interested in pushing this character to his emotional depths and shaking him to his core,” he said.

Instead, Pattinson’s Batman is meant to launch a new Batman universe, with multiple spinoff movies and series on HBO Max. Among the spinoffs is an HBO Max series based on the Batman supervillain Penguin, played by Collin Farrell, who will make his first appearance as the character in The Batman. A Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace as the superhero is also set to premiere on HBO Max, though the film isn’t expected to exist in the same universe as Pattinson’s Batman as Michael Keaton (who played the character in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns) has been cast as the hero.

While the Riddler is the main villain in The Batman, he isn’t Gotham’s only familiar face to appear in the movie. So…was that  Joker in The Batman. Read on for an explanation for that Batman end scene and whether Joker and Batman could face off in the future.

"The Batman"
Image: Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Was that the Joker at the end of The Batman?

Was that the Joker at the end of The Batman? In one of the final scenes of The Batman, Riddler is locked up in Arkham Asylum after Batman ruins his plan to destroy Gotham City as he hears a whisper from another inmate (Barry Keoghan) by his cell door. What is it they say?” the voice says. “One day you’re on top. The next, you’re a clown.” The scene ends with Riddler and the inmate laughing as they form a new friendship. So…was that the Joker at the end of The Batman? The answer is yes. In an interview with Variety, director Matt Reeves confirmed that the voice who talks to Riddler in the penultimate scene of The Batman is, in fact, the Joker, a Gotham supervillain who first appeared in the DC comic book Batman in 1940. “You’re right,” Reeves told Variety. “It is the Joker.”

Though it seemed like the scene was meant to introduce the Joker as the next Batman villain, Reeves told Variety that he has no current plans for Keoghan’s Joker to appear in more Batman movies. “It’s not an Easter egg scene,” he said. “It’s not one of those end credits Marvel or DC scenes where it’s going, like, ‘Hey, here’s the next movie!’ In fact, I have no idea when or if we would return to that character in the movies.” Reeves also revealed that the Joker initially had a bigger role in The Batman, and appeared in a scene after the Riddler kills Gotham’s police commissioner and leaves another note for the Batman, who is determined to find out who the Riddler is. “I thought he would be really insecure about this and he’d probably want to find some way to get into the [Riddler’s] mindset, like in ‘Manhunter’ or ‘Mindhunter’ — this idea of profiling somebody, so you can predict his next move,” Reeves said.

The scene with the Joker involved Batman sneaking into Arkham to talk to the Joker, whom he already has a relationship with.  “And this guy says, ‘It’s almost our anniversary, isn’t it?’” Reeves said. “You realize that they have a relationship, and that this guy obviously did something, and Batman somehow got him into Arkham.” During the scene, Batman tells the Joker that he wants to know how Ridler thinks, to which Joker responds, “What do you mean, you want to know how he thinks? You guys think the same.” Reeves explained of the scene, “What he’s really doing is getting into Batman’s head. And [Batman] is resisting this idea violently. And so that’s what that scene was. It was a scene to unsettle him.”

Reeves told Variety that he felt the scene wasn’t necessary, which is why he cut it. “It wasn’t necessary,” he said. “It was one of those scenes where, given how complex the narrative was, by taking it out, it kept the story moving in a way it needed to.” He continued, “It’s a really creepy, cool scene. That was the scene that was meant to introduce this guy and just to tease the audience to go like, ‘Oh my god, he’s here too? And he’s not yet the Joker — what’s this going to be?’ And then it seems so delicious in the story, since we’d already set him up, to have the end of the story, the completion of the Riddler arc, be that he was in a cell next to this guy.”

Reeves also told Variety that he almost cut Joker’s scene between him and Riddler as well, but left it in after he tested The Batman with audiences and realized how the scene related to Batman’s final conversation with Selina Kyle / Catwoman, who tells Batman that he’s fated stay and fight for Gotham. “Because when Selena is saying to him, ‘This place is never going to change,’ you hadn’t seen that, in fact, trouble was already brewing,” Reeves said. “You kind of felt like, well, Couldn’t you just go with her? Go with her! What’s the problem? What’s wrong with you?! It changed the emotional stakes. It didn’t feel the same.” Reeves also didn’t like losing the final beat of the Riddler’s arc, in which, after a lifetime of neglect and isolation, he finally finds a compatriot — albeit a murderous psychopath.”

He continued, “I initially tested it without it; when I put it back in, the scores for the ending went back up. And I think it wasn’t just that people enjoyed seeing that character. It changed people’s response to the very ending of the movie, to see that Gotham was still Gotham, and that Batman really didn’t have a choice. He has to keep doing what he’s gonna do.”

Reeves also explained why he included Joker’s scene with Riddler if he doesn’t plan for Joker to be the next Batman villain. “I never was trying to say like, ‘Hey, guess what, here’s the Joker. Next movie!’” he said. “The idea was more to say, ‘Hey, look, if you think that trouble is going to go away in Gotham, you can forget it. It’s already here. And it’s already delicious.’”

Reeves also confirmed that the Joker in The Batman isn’t the same fully developed Joker as seen in previous Batman movies, like Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. To reinforce this idea with audiences, Reeves decided to shoot Keoghan with his face obscured and somewhat out of focus, but to have his hair and mouth shape still recognizable as Joker. “I said, ‘The shape of his hair, the shape of his mouth, it’s all going to read, but it’s going to be soft,’” Reeves recalled of his conversation with The Batman‘s makeup artist. “So he knew that was the canvas he had to deal with.”

Reeves also told Variety that his version of Joker was inspired by actor Conrad Veid’s performance in the 1928 movie, The Man Who Laughs, which was based on a novel by Victor Hugo. “It’s like Phantom of the Opera,” Reeves said. “He has a congenital disease where he can’t stop smiling and it’s horrific. His face is half-covered through most of the film.” Reeves also confirmed to Variety that his version of Joker doesn’t fall into a vat of chemicals to become the supervillain he is; instead, he’s born with a condition where he never stops smiling. “It’s not about some version where he falls into a vat of chemicals and his face is distorted, or what [Christopher] Nolan did, where there’s some mystery to how he got these scars carved into his face,” he said. “What if this guy from birth had this disease and he was cursed? He had this smile that people stared at that was grotesque and terrifying. Even as a child, people looked at him with horror, and his response was to say, ‘OK, so a joke was played on me,’ and this was his nihilistic take on the world.”

Reeves also told Variety about what it was like to keep the Joker a secret and how Keoghan’s character was initially announced as Stanley Merkel, a Gotham police officer who works with Jim Gordon. He also considered calling Keoghan’s character “Unnamed Arkham Inmate” but knew that fans would figure out who he was. “I didn’t want to call him the Joker,” Reeves said. “I wanted him to be this kind of lean forward thing for people who were fans to go like, ‘Oh my god, I think that’s the Joker. I think they’re doing the Joker.’” He continued, “I didn’t want to create all this speculation that we were doing the Joker by naming what he was, so we thought, well, let’s make him be a cop, and then people won’t really think too hard about it.”

Though Reeves doesn’t have plans for Joker to return in the next Batman movie, he hinted that the character could appear in other Batman projects, such as HBO Max’s Penguin TV spinoff. “There might be places,” he said. “There’s stuff I’m very interested in doing in an Arkham space, potentially for HBO Max. There are things we’ve talked about there. So it’s very possible. It also isn’t impossible, that there is some story that comes back where Joker comes into our world.”

Reeves also recalled his conversations with Keoghan about how he wanted his version of Joker to be different from past interpretations, like Joaquin Phoenix in 2019’s Joker. “We made a really concerted effort to make this different from the other Batman movies, because we needed to,” he said. “It’s something to think about with the Joker. It’s been done well, a number of times.” He continued, “I said to Barry, right from the beginning, ‘Look, I don’t know where this is going to go. I can’t promise that it’ll even ever come back. I don’t know.’ And I still feel that way now. I’m not sure exactly.”

As for why he cast Keoghan, Reeves explained that he wanted an actor who could take on the “high-wire act” of Joker, even if it was only for one scene. “I was looking not only for somebody who was a good actor, but somebody who was fearless,” he said. “Joaquin, as we were making the movie, had just won the Oscar. They already thought you can’t do the Joker again after Heath Ledger. And then Joaquin comes in. So I can imagine an actor going like, ‘There’s nowhere to go but down!’” He continued, “Barry was full in. That, along with the fact that I loved him as an actor, was the deciding factor. And we did it.”

The Batman will be available to stream on HBO Max on April 19, 2022. Here’s how to watch it for free.

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