More so than almost every other superhero movie in the past few decades, Matt Reeves’ The Batman is what it is. There’s room for the story to continue, sure, but the movie stands on its own without huge teases for the future or connections to other films. And it’s better off for it.
Of course, there is one big exception to this. And though the film doesn’t explicitly confirm anything about this character, much like the rest of the film around it, it’s pretty straightforward and obvious. However, Reeves confirmed that the tease is both what you think, but also not.
After Batman foils the Riddler’s plan, we see Riddler in jail conversing with another inmate. “What is it they say?” this mysterious character says. “One day you’re on top. The next, you’re a clown.” Billed in the credits as “Unseen Arkham Inmate” and played by Eternals star Barry Keoghan, his laugh, look, and the clown reference lead you to believe this is the Joker. And guess what? It is. “He’s who you think he is,” Reeves told a group of journalists a few weeks back. But, like the other characters in the film, from Batman and Gordon all the way down to Rogues like Catwoman and Penguin, this isn’t quite the full Joker we know from comics and movies.
“The thing about the movie is that it isn’t a Batman origin story, but it is the origin story of every Rogues’ Gallery character that you come across,” Reeves said. “So like Selina Kyle’s not yet Catwoman and the Penguin is not yet the kingpin, and the character that you’re referring to is not yet the character that you’re referring to. But it is, in fact, him.”
Interestingly enough though, there was more of this early Joker in other versions of the movie. Speaking to Variety, Reeves said that he actually shot another scene with Keoghan as Joker that hit the cutting room floor. In the film, Batman is at a loss for how to defeat the Riddler and — in a very Silence of the Lambs and Mindhunter kind of way — he decides to break into Arkham and ask Joker about Riddler
“And [Joker] says, ‘It’s almost our anniversary, isn’t it?’” Reeves explained. “You realise that they have a relationship and that this guy obviously did something, and Batman somehow got him into Arkham.”
That history is not explained in the scene but Joker does flip things on Batman. After asking for insight into how he thinks, Joker hits Batman with the bad news. “[Joker tells Batman] ‘What do you mean, you want to know how he thinks?’” Reeves explained. “’You guys think the same.’ What he’s really doing is getting into Batman’s head. And he is resisting this idea violently. And so that’s what that scene was. It was a scene to unsettle him.”
Eventually though, the scene was cut because it slowed the pace of the movie down. But Reeves does think he’ll release it sometime in the future. “It’s a really creepy, cool scene,” he says. “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.”
Speaking of the future though, while a sequel to The Batman is already in the works, Reeves does not necessarily think because the Joker shows up at the end of this film that he will 100% be the star of the next one. “It’s not an Easter egg scene,” Reeves 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.”
Head to Variety to read much more on this new Mr. J — the casting, the look, and more. The Batman is currently in theatres.