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Warning: Joker SPOILERS ahead!
Since Todd Phillips’ Joker arrived in theaters, it has generated unprecedented box office business and intense conversation in equal measure. A big topic of discussion has been the film’s ending, with audiences speculating about what did and what didn’t actually happen and what it all means. To see that debate unfold has been a real highlight for star Joaquin Phoenix, who loves all the fan theories about the movie’s ending, as he explained:
It's been super interesting how people react to the movie and what they see -- and to me, all of those answers are valid. Normally you have to answer those questions. But this really is participatory and interactive. It's up to the audience. That's so rare, especially with a big studio movie, and I don't want to ruin that by saying, 'No, this is what it is.' To me, there are so many different ways to view this character and his experience that I don't think you can come up with a particular meaning.
As a result of Joker’s success and visibility, Joaquin Phoenix is getting to see and follow the way that people are reacting to the film and interpreting what actually happened in it. So he is very much aware of the conversations taking place and the theorizing about the ending and he finds that whole process quite interesting. The actor loves the various fan theories and is supportive of all possible conclusions.
Rather than come down on one side of things, Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t think that there is one right answer. Maybe it was all in Arthur’s head and maybe it wasn’t. Part of the beauty of the film is the ambiguity. As he told the Los Angeles Times, Joaquin Phoenix thinks that the answer is ultimately up to the audience, it’s for them to decide and whatever answer feels right and has meaning to you is just as valid as any other.
So even if Joaquin Phoenix has his own answer in his mind of what’s true and what isn’t (director Todd Phillips certainly does), he wouldn’t say because he doesn’t want to take away from that conversation. By giving a definitive answer those fan theories go away and the enjoyment of speculation along with them. Theorizing gives a film longevity and something of a second life, I mean, we’re still debating the ending of Inception almost a decade later.
The ambiguous nature of Joker’s ending challenges audiences and forces them to engage with it and to Joaquin Phoenix, that’s a quality that is usually lacking in big studio movies. This is sort of the problem Martin Scorsese has lamented about franchise films, a lack of mystery and risk-taking in favor of safety and familiarity. He’s not wrong and that’s part of what makes Joker so cool.
It’s also quite fitting that a film about the Joker has people questioning what’s real and what the truth is. Part of what has made the Joker such an enduring and popular character is his enigmatic nature. He’s a villain that is the source of endless speculation, particularly with regards to his identity and origins. So it’s pretty neat that although this film gives away his identity and shows us how Arthur Fleck became this version of the Joker, it still manages to have so much mystery to it.
Joker is now playing. Check out what else is headed to theaters in our 2019 Release Schedule and let us know what you think really happened in the poll below.