Warning! Major SPOILERS for Joker ahead.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker isn't supposed to connect to any other DCEU movies, but now that it's a big hit, some have wondered how he would fare in a matchup against Robert Pattinson’s Batman in a future film. Though Batman and the Joker are mortal enemies and have clashed countless times in their extensive mythos, they have yet to meet in the world of Joker, which provides a dark origin story for the famous super-villain. Inspired by two of Martin Scorsese’s movies – namely Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy – and taking subtle notes from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Joker reveals that the Clown Prince of Crime was once a failed stand-up comedian named Arthur Fleck, who was dealt a very bad hand in life. As his fragile mental state deteriorates and tensions in Gotham continue to rise, Fleck – and the city at large – gradually succumb to the darkness.
Joker might have been mired in controversy since day one, but little of that has reflected badly on its lead actor. Indeed, Joaquin Phoenix embodies the tortured, twisted soul of the Joker so capably that fans are clamoring for his character to return, specifically so that he can continue to cause chaos and also meet up with his iconic, crime-fighting foe. This desire is intensified by the fact that Batman himself is soon to be reinvented by director Matt Reeves in The Batman and played by the highly talented actor Robert Pattinson.
A crossover for the two characters might seem almost certain to casual onlookers given their popularity, yet sadly this isn’t the case. Joker’s director Todd Philips has long stressed that his film was a “one-off” experiment, and he and his star are particularly keen to eschew the commitments and demands of modern franchises. Phillips even quashed the rumors that Phoenix’s Joker would meet Pattinson’s Batman himself. However, with Joker currently breaking records at the box-office and Phoenix surprisingly admitting that he would don the clown makeup once more, a future for the pair doesn’t seem that impossible. This becomes even likelier when we consider that a crossover between these incarnations of Batman and the Joker could be facilitated with relative ease.
Joker Could Be In The Same Universe As Reeves' Batman
Though Joker takes place in a Batman-less Gotham and closely charts Arthur’s dark spiral, it still contains direct references to the Caped Crusader. Moreover, after reading one of his mother’s (Frances Conroy) letters, Arthur is led to believe that he is the illegitimate son of Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), the prominent businessman who is beginning his mayoral campaign. Arthur attempts to accost his presumed father at Wayne Manor, where he even meets Alfred Pennyworth (Douglas Hodge) and a young Bruce Wayne (Dante Pereira-Olson) before he makes a hasty exit.
Joker reorients upon Arthur’s waning grasp on reality, and the Waynes are side-lined again as he learns the “truth” about his mother. But Thomas, Martha (Carrie Louise Putrello) and Bruce reappear in the final act when Gotham descends into violence and madness. Spurred by Arthur’s revolution, a masked demonstrator murders the Waynes in retribution for their “crimes” against their fellow citizens, and a key part of Batman lore is recreated once more. Significantly, one of Joker’s final, lingering shots is a recreation of a famous comic book panel, where a horrified Bruce stands over his parents’ bodies in the alleyway behind the theater.
Based on this ending, one of the easiest ways for Phoenix’s Joker to meet Pattinson’s Batman is for Matt Reeves’ upcoming series to simply pick up where Joker leaves off and chart the same Gotham and Clown Prince many years afterward. Skeptical readers may point out that Phoenix’s Joker would be much older by that point (more on this later) and that, in light of what we currently know, neither Joker nor Reeves’ The Batman complement each other in terms of their approaches. Indeed, the dark and psychological Joker is positioned as an adjunct franchise to the main DCEU and was originally referred to as the first of a DC Black anthology series. Reeves’ The Batman won’t be part of the DCEU either, but the director apparently has been given free reign to reinvent the superhero during his formative days in a noirish detective tale. These contrasting visions may seem rather incompatible at first. Yet with both properties outside the confines of the DCEU, there's logic in having them connect and define the renewed Bat-brand against Ben Affleck and Jared Leto's ill-fated tenure.
How Phoenix Could Be The Joker To Pattinson's Batman
Molding The Batman to supplement Joker seems like a no-brainer, but its admittedly unlikely to happen. Matt Reeves boarded the project to unveil his uncompromised vision of the character, and with the film’s script now completed and casting well underway, it’s unlikely that director or studio would be willing to heavily change their plans and risk delaying The Batman once again. On the other hand, if The Batman can’t shift to accommodate the world of Joker, Phoenix’s incarnation could change to fit into Reeves’ cinematic mythos.
Moreover, through the course of Joker it transpires that many sections of its story - such as Arthur’s growing bond with his neighbor Sophie (Zazie Beetz)- didn’t happen. They were only part of Arthur’s delusions as his illness began to run unchecked. Bolstered by its surreal and fractured feel, Joker now has audiences questioning whether the majority of the film actually occurred in Arthur’s head, and if the last scene of him meeting (and possibly murder of) his new therapist in an institution is the only thing that occurred in “reality.” This ambiguity is key to this discussion since it lends a great deal of flexibility to any new plans for Phoenix’s Joker.
Joker ends with Arthur clearly institutionalized (likely inside the film’s version of Arkham Asylum) but there is little to suggest when this occurs within Joker’s timeline, or if it even occurs in the same narrative as the rest of the movie. As such, the hallucinating Joker of this ending could be simply languishing in the Arkham of Reeves’ world. Certainly, instead of the police locking him away, these scenes may occur post-incarceration at the hands of Pattinson’s Batman who is simply operating elsewhere. Curiously, the timelines of both Reeves’ and Phillip’s films support such a story. Joker takes place in 1981, where Arthur is in his 30s and Bruce Wayne is around the age of ten. Reeves’ envisioning of Batman is rumored to occur in the mid-late 90s. Therefore, if Arthur did meet Batman, it would mean that the Joker would be approximately fifty years old as Bruce approaches his thirtieth birthday. This might be a larger age gap than we’re used to for this hero and villain, but it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.
Then again, there is the implication that most of Joker may have occurred in a vastly different way to Arthur’s imaginings. If characters and entire situations were imagined and misinterpreted throughout the film, who is to say that the Joker himself is not as he appeared? Could the personality, outfit and overall backstory we came to know be a similar delusion? Todd Phillips has even suggested that Phoenix’s character isn’t even the "true" Joker, with the implication being that Arthur inspired the real super-villain to emerge years later. If this is the case, couldn’t Phoenix simply play this authentic Crown Prince of Crime as well as his muse? In short, this inability to pin Joker down gives Reeves and his fellow filmmakers carte blanche to include Phoenix’s Joker in their movies by remodeling him in any way that they see fit.
Phoenix's Joker Would Be A Great Villain For Pattinson's Batman
Through the storytelling possibilities that Joker provides, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker could crossover with Robert Pattinson’s Batman – and result in a highly compelling rivalry going forward. Though Twilight still clings to Pattinson’s reputation, he has since proven himself as a formidable talent in the intervening years. Based upon his extensive indie filmography, many moviegoers are eagerly awaiting his take upon the Caped Crusader. As for Joaquin Phoenix, he is often referred to as one of the greatest actors of his generation, which his performance in Joker confirmed for audiences everywhere.
But the fame and skills of Pattinson and Phoenix are not the only draws here. From the campy days of Adam West to the grittiness of Christian Bale, Batmen and Jokers have fought in various scenarios and dynamics. Yet in this myriad of incarnations, the Pattinson/Phoenix paring brings something new to the table. Unlike every prior cinematic version, Phoenix’s Joker will be older and more established than Pattinson’s younger, inexperienced Batman who is relatively new to the superhero game.
We may have seen glimmers of an outclassed and ill-at-ease Batman onscreen before, but such a dynamic would surely be heightened by the aforementioned age-gap – and the lingering possibility of them being half-brothers. Given Joker’s brutality and the commitment of both actors to their craft, such a rivalry is bound to be the most intense version committed to celluloid thus far. With Phoenix seemingly keen to return, we have explored how there are numerous ways for Warner Bros. to manufacture a sensational showdown between these titanic thespians. Coupled with Matt Reeves’ talents, the prospect of Robert Pattinson facing down Joaquin Phoenix – as Batman and the Joker respectively – seems like too good of an opportunity to miss.
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021