We don’t even know what the plans are for this next iteration, as with the rest of The Batman’s universe but the mystery Arkham inmate ID’d as The Joker is already being contextualized and compared to others of the past.
And Matt Reeves leads the charge there. In a new interview with IGN, the director explained his Clown Prince of Crime is one who hasn’t found his inner sadistic prankster (a Joker who isn’t Joker yet) so he isn’t fully formed like Heath Ledger was.
Reeves detailed, “What’s interesting is that the reason that Joker’s in the movie is there was actually another scene that was earlier. And because the movie is not an origin tale for Batman, but it’s his early days, it really is an origin tale for the Rogue’s Gallery’s characters.”
He added, “And for me, I think [it’s] this idea that the Joker is not yet the Joker, but they already have this relationship.”
Reeves went on to provide details about this scene, “The scene that was not in the movie, the scene that this is really the companion to, which is actually a really cool scene that will release at some point, it’s a scene where Batman is so unnerved because the Riddler is writing to him. And he’s like, ‘Well, why is this guy writing to me?’ And he figures he’s got to profile this killer.”
He continued, “He goes to see another killer that he’s clearly had an experience with in these first two years. And this killer in this story is not yet the character that we come to know, right?”
““So everybody’s in their infancy. So in the comics, these characters often declare their alter egos in response to the fact that there’s a Batman out there,” Reeves elaborated. “And so here, we have a Joker who’s not yet the Joker.”
Reeves also promised we will see how the insane mastermind, played by Barry Keoghan, looks in his face paint very soon.
“In the scene that you’ll see in the future, you’ll see that we worked on what he looked like,” Reeves said. “And he’s held in this very suspenseful way, away from you visually.”
For inspiration, Reeves went back to the same well that Bob Kane and Bill Finger drew from, Conrad Veidt’s portrayal of Victor Hugo’s tragic hero Gwynplaine in The Man Who Laughs.
“But I wanted to create an iteration of him that felt distinctive and new, but went right back to the roots,” Reeves continued. “So he’s very much out of the Conrad Veidt mold and that idea of the silent film of The Man Who Laughs.”
Far from restricting his influences to the silent era, Reeves also looked to David Lynch and real life, as truth is stranger than fiction and the world is full of unorthodox conditions that affect facial expressions or, like with Arthur Fleck, generate fits of laughter.
“He’s got this congenital disease. He can never stop smiling,” Reeves revealed. “And it made Mike and I think about — I was talking about The Elephant Man because I love David Lynch. And I was like, ‘Well, maybe there’s something here where it’s not something where he fell in a vat of chemicals or it’s not the Nolan thing where he has these scars and we don’t know where they came from.”
“What if this is something that he’s been touched by from birth and that he has a congenital disease that refuses to let him stop smiling? And he’s had this very dark reaction to it, and he’s had to spend a life of people looking at him in a certain way and he knows how to get into your head,” Reeves explained.
It’s from this and the way it caused him to be looked at in the world of The Batman that this Joker’s twisted world view of life as a “cruel joke” took shape.
“So [it’s] this idea of him being very incisive and brilliant and being able to get into your mind and basically having this nihilistic point of view that’s like from his inception, from his birth, life has been a cruel joke on him. And this is his response, and he’s eventually going to declare himself as a clown, declare himself as the Joker,” Reeves said. “That was the idea.”
Joker was supposed to appear earlier in the film and interact with Batman the way Calendar Man does in Long Halloween to help catch The Riddler. Reeves cut the scene though after testing it as he feels, without it, the stakes of Riddler’s capture and Gotham’s power vacuum increase.
Riddler meeting Joker in Arkham is “just one example of how trouble in Gotham is never going to subside,” Reeves adds. “There’s always going to be somebody with a plan afoot.”
He cautions, however, that doesn’t mean the plot of the next movie will be a scheme perpetrated by Mr. J himself.
“So the scene is not meant to be there to say, ‘Oh, here’s an Easter egg. The next movie is X,’” Reeves explains. “I don’t know that the Joker would be in the next movie, but I can tell you that here’s what you’re seeing, is an early days version of this character, and trouble, as always, is brewing in Gotham.”