Joker’s Todd Phillips Is Playing Cagey About What Was Real Or In Arthur's Mind

Arthur Fleck in Joker

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Spoilers ahead for Joker.

It's no secret that comic book movies are everywhere, but there are some projects that stand out and provide something wholly unique to the genre. Chief among them is Todd Phillips' Joker, which provided an origin story for Batman's greatest foe. The psychological drama was dark and unsettling, with Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck providing an unreliable narrator. Given the the film's ending, some moviegoers are questioning if the events of the film were just one giant delusion in Arthur's head. But Phillips is being a bit cagey about that ongoing discussion.

Todd Phillips brought an original story to theaters with Joker, without taking inspiration from the events of the comics. The movie ended with Arthur Fleck in a mental institution, which has been the catalyst for countless fan theories. One of them is that the entire movie was one giant delusion. Another is that Arthur never left Arkham State Hospital when he went to steal his mother's records. Now Phillips has addressed the idea that the film's contents weren't real, and he said:

You could [read it that way]. I have a firm view on it too, but yeah you certainly could.

Very cheeky. While Todd Phillips mentions having a firm view on how much of Joker's contents actually happened, he's not necessarily sharing them with the world. As such, cinephiles will have to continue debating until an answer is given.

Todd Phillips' comments to Empire highlight how much discussion is still being had over the contents of Joker. Despite some controversy ahead of its release, the movie has been universally praised, while also making tons of money at the box office. But the movie follows Arthur Fleck's descent into madness, as his delusions and isolation take hold. As such, almost every frame of Joker is up for debate.

Joker begins and ends with Arthur Fleck speaking to a therapist. The first was provided by social service, while the latter happened while the ill-fated protagonist was strapped to a table at Arkham Asylum. This cyclical storytelling that helps add fuels to the theories about Joker, which indicate the movie's contents didn't really happen. Arthur didn't begin a revolution or murder Murray Franklin on TV, but instead has spent the entirety of the film's runtime in Arkham.

Related: How Joaquin Phoenix's Joker Threw Off A Co-Star During A Pivotal Scene

Personally, I'm more inclined to believe the overall narrative of the film, which features Arthur's delusions but isn't necessarily sidetracked by them. The character's dark and sad story was fascinating, and audiences watched as his mental health deteriorated, and he embraced the carnal sides of his personality. The movie's final shots show him continuing his rampage of murder from within Gotham, teasing the countless times the character escapes throughout the course of the comics.

Speaking of the comics, you can read up on Joker's long tenure on the page here. While Todd Phillips didn't much take inspiration from the page, the Clown Prince of Crime's influence should be felt in future installments of the DCEU.

Joker is still in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.