Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for Joker.
Now that Warner Bros. and DC Films' new standalone Joker movie is in theaters, here are the biggest reveals and spoilers from the film. Unlike the more recent DC movies, Joker does not take place in the DC Extended Universe. WB has been attempting to build their shared universe since Man of Steel in 2013 so they had something that could rival Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe. After struggling to do so, Joker represents WB and DC moving in a new direction.
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker exists in its own continuity and tells the origin story of the iconic Batman villain. Instead of borrowing from the comics to tell this tale, Phillips created his own version of Joker's backstory. As a result, Joker offers a new story to comic fans and takes a dramatic, violent, and thematically-heavy approach to the Clown Prince of Crime. Joaquin Phoenix plays this version of the character, whose real name is Arthur Fleck, and has been the highlight of Joker's reviews and reactions to this point.
The story that plays out in Joker is filled with twists and, as a result, there are plenty of SPOILERS. With the movie finally being released around the world, its time to dive in and discuss all of the spoilery details that Joker has to offer.
Arthur Fleck Has A Mental Illness That Causes Him To Laugh Uncontrollably
It doesn't take long for Joker to establish that Arthur Fleck has a mental illness. Beyond the severe depression he struggles with, though, Fleck also has a rare condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably called the pseudobulbar affect. The disorder makes Arthur laugh, even when that's not actually how he feels; usually when he is nervous or made uncomfortable. Since the disease is so rare, he carries around cards to pass out to people explaining why he is laughing. When Arthur does attempt to repress the laughter, it becomes hard for him to breathe. Phoenix previously said in interviews that he studied people with this disorder in real-life to perfect his laugh.
Arthur Fleck Works As A Clown-For-Hire & Wants To Be A Stand-Up Comic
To make ends meet and take care of his mother, Arthur has a job as a clown-for-hire. He works for Ha-Ha's and is sent to various locations dressed as a clown, but there is an implied history that customers frequently complain about him. After abandoning his post when robbed, Arthur then gets a gig on a children's ward in a hospital. However, he brings a gun to the hospital (for his own protection) and it drops on the floor, leading to him being fired. When he isn't dressed up like a clown, Arthur has dreams of being a stand-up comic. He's still working on his material in the film, but his routine does generate some attention throughout Gotham - but only because of how bad it is.
Joker Starts An Occupy Wall Street Movement After Killing Three Wayne Employees
Arthur's jobless state and uncontrollable laughter kick off his turn into Joker. On his way home after being fired, he bursts into laughter over the antics of three Wayne employees on the subway. They don't find his laughter to be amusing, though, and proceed to beat him up. However, Arthur is the one who has the last laugh, as he pulls his gun and shoots all three of them. The action kicks off an Occupy Wall Street-like movement from the low-class Gotham residents, using the man with a clown mask who killed the Wayne employees as their symbol.
Joker Thinks He's Thomas Wayne's Son - But He's Not
One question that Joker sets up early on is what is so important about the letters Arthur's mom, Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy), is trying to send to Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen). Eventually, Arthur reads one for himself and learns that he is the son of Thomas Wayne. According to his mother, this affair happened when she worked for Thomas almost 30 years ago, but she was sent away to protect his image. After visiting Wayne Manor and meeting Bruce, Arthur confronts Thomas about this fact, only to learn that his mother is delusional and that he is not Thomas' son. The truth is much more complicated...
Joker Was Adopted And Severely Abused As A Child
Arthur learns from Thomas that he was adopted as a child, which he refuses to believe. He attempts to learn the truth by going to Arkham Asylum to read the file for his mother's reported stay in the institution. Penny's delusion is confirmed there, as well as the troubling childhood that Arthur had. The record establishes that she adopted a child (implying the identity is Arthur), but also that he was severely abused as a child. Damage to the head and abuse to the rest of his body is mentioned, with one especially concerning report detailing how he was tied to a radiator as a child for days.
Joker Kills Robert De Niro's Murray Franklin Live On TV
The climax of the movie leads to Arthur's appearance on Murray Franklin's (Robert De Niro) talk show, which has long been a dream of his. In the lead-up to it, Joker makes it clear that Arthur has other plans for his TV debut than following along with Murray continuing to make fun of him. He arrives in his full Joker attire - and asks to be addressed as such - and quickly makes the interview his own. Joker reveals that he was the one who murdered the three Wayne employees. After people start to get angry, he then shoots Murray in the head on live TV for how he made fun of him before.
Bruce Wayne's Parents Are Killed In The Joker Riot
The murder of Franklin and Joker's emergence sends Gotham into a state of frenzy with a city-wide riot taking place with supporters of what Joker now stands for donning clown masks and facepaint. Among the chaos and destruction, Joker cuts to Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne exiting a movie theater. As the centeral antagonist of the Joker movement, Thomas becomes a clear target for one of Joker's followers, who goes on to murder him and Martha in an alleyway. This just leaves Bruce alive and alone, with Fleck's Joker tangentially related to the reason behind the murder of Bruce's parents.
Joker Is Lauded By The Rioters
When the riots begin, Joker is only able to watch in admiration of what he's inspired as he was arrested. But, an ambulance driven by a Joker follower soon crashes into the side of the cop car, leading to Joker being pulled out of the wreckage. The rioters swarm to Joker's location and begin cheering for him once he comes to. Joker goes on to stand on top of a car with his followers surrounding him, using the blood from his mouth to repaint his red smile, and raising his arms in acceptance of their praise.
Joker Ends Up Locked Away In Arkham Asylum
At some point, Joker is caught and locked up in Arkham Asylum, although it isn't clearly stated how or when he was caught again after the riot, nor how long he's been locked away for. He's reintroduced alone in a white room with a female doctor and laughing about a joke he says she will not understand. Next, Arthur is shown walking down the hallway, still handcuffed, but with blood on the bottom of his shoes. He is then chased by someone who works in Arkham.
Big Sections Of Joker Are Just In Arthur's Head
What Joker also implies - especially in the moments mentioned above - is that large portions of the movie take place just in Arthur's head. This is clearly depicted when he fantasizes about being an audience member at Murray Franklin's show, but not all of his delusions are as plainly stated. Joker presents Arthur to be in a relationship with his neighbor Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz), only to reveal that this was all a lie as well. With Joker being viewed as the hero of this story and the ambiguity over how he goes from standing among his supporters to being locked in Arkham, it is possible that parts of the finale (and maybe even more) were just Arthur's imagination of how he wanted these events to play out.
The Waynes & Alfred Are The Only Confirmed DC Characters
Even with a titular character based on a DC character, the rest of Joker does not have that many other familiar faces or names. Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne are clearly established as similar to their comic counterparts. Each of them have relatively small roles in the grand scheme of things, but they are all featured. Additionally, the Waynes' trusted butler Alfred Pennyworth (Douglas Hodge) also makes a brief appearance. While there are some hints towards other DC characters, these four are the only ones confirmed in Joker.
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