How Matt Reeves' The Batman Changed My Mind About Revisiting The Joker In Movies

Robert Pattinson as Batman in The Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Warning: SPOILERS for The Batman are clearly going to be present in this discussion. If you’re looking to enjoy some twist-free discussion, head over to the many pieces of CinemaBlend coverage that avoid deeper plot points.

Perhaps the greatest temptation that presents itself whenever a writer or director revisits Gotham City is exploring The Joker. There have been many, easily ranked interpretations of the Caped Crusader’s greatest foe over the years, as he’s kind of easy prey. If you were to ask me before seeing Matt ReevesThe Batman, I’d have told you Joker's been a little too easy to fall back on in the world of DC Comics’ cinematic tales, and I wouldn’t want to see his pale white grin any time soon. 

However, after watching Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig’s new spin on the entirety of Bruce Wayne’s metropolitan playground, my mind is completely changed. I’m ready to explain myself, but before I do, I must warn you all yet again that spoilers are in play. If you haven’t seen The Batman, the finer points of that film’s story are part of what make up my argument, so consider this your final warning to board the next bus to Metropolis before I begin. Now let’s shuffle the deck, and start dealing with why it’s ok that Mr. J is back on the table.

Robert Pattinson scowls on the other end of the glass at Arkham in The Batman.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/DC)

How Matt Reeves Introduced His Joker In The Batman

I won’t take up too much time talking about how The Joker fits into The Batman, as you can get a better appreciation for that in our feature dissecting the ending of the film. With that in mind, we should go through a quick and easy version of events regarding how and why we find ourselves even pondering this question. Just in case anyone had a doubt in their minds as to who that “Unseen Arkham Prisoner” (Barry Keoghan) happens to be, it is indeed The Joker.

Befriending the recently captured Riddler/Edward Nashton (Paul Dano) on the day of his ultimate defeat, this prisoner is barely seen on camera. While he’s still quite mysterious, and technically “unseen” thanks to some rather artful means, we’ve been introduced to the man who will be the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a subtle moment that doesn’t hammer the audience over the head, and it’s rather effective at stoking the fires to wanting to see The Joker in action. 

Heath Ledger as The Joker

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Every Batman Should Have A Joker That Fully Fits Their Universe

Batman and The Joker are an iconic pair for a reason, as it’s a hero/villain exercise that’s meant to test the patience of our crimefighting hero. In order to do just that, we need to have the Bruce Wayne/Batman character established properly, so that way the work can begin on building the proper Joker. Every Batman needs a Joker who fully fits their universe’s definition of ultimate chaos. 

The Batman built that foundation needed to eventually tackle the ultimate card in the deck of Gotham’s coterie of supervillains, and it did so with flying colors. Seeing how Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne learns that he needs to be both himself and his costumed alter ego was so refreshing that it gave the world a unique take on a Batman adventure. Which means that The Joker's potential future usage is even more exciting thanks to the thematic lens used in this variant. 

Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth in The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Year Two’s Joker Isn’t Fully Formed, Which Opens Doors

When CinemaBlend spoke with Matt Reeves about The Batman, he revealed that a scene with The Joker was cut from the film. Building a relationship between Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne and Barry Keoghan’s unnamed variant, it was intended to canonize how Batman tussled with this madman in Year One, sending him straight to Arkham. Reeves then went on to say that technically, this man isn’t “The Joker” just yet, as he’s not fully formed in his physical appearance or his self identification as that character. An unformed Joker opens a lot of doors for the future shaping of that iconic nemesis, and there’s already one that seems the most promising.

As mentioned before, The Batman is about Bruce Wayne’s psyche allowing his actual self to coexist with his crime fighting identity. Just as Zoë Kravitz had previously mentioned, seeing Bruce having to cultivate his more lavish playboy image is an exciting angle that we might see come to pass in a sequel. However, on the other side of the coin, the right Joker could inspire a regression in the progress made on young Master Wayne’s life balance. Or, even worse, this bespoke version of The Joker could cause Gotham’s Dark Knight to go his darkest mindset yet, pushing the boundaries of unconventional punishment to even worse lengths. 

Paul Dano in The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Paul Dano’s Riddler Proved The Grounded Approach Works

A great concern when it came to the early days of The Batman’s hype machine was just how Matt Reeves’ commitment to realism would limit the villains that could be used. Unlike the kitchen sink approach that saw The LEGO Batman Movie including a lot of famous foes, you can’t just drop Condiment King into this version of Gotham. Grounded villains seemed like a potential stumbling block, but once Paul Dano’s Riddler was in full effect, the realistic approach was proven to work.

The Joker has another advantage when it comes to being used as a Batman villain: he can be scaled back or ramped up to fit the reality he’s presented in. That, along with his brand recognition, is part of why he’s constantly used. As Matt Reeves and Peter Craig took a more Zodiac Killer inspired approach to their Riddler, The Batman tapped into a frighteningly realistic threat, without scaring away too many fans of the outlandish. It’s a formula that could make for the best approach to The Joker we’ve seen in quite some time.

Colin Farrell in The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Matt Reeves Isn’t In A Rush To Return To The Joker

Perhaps the greatest aspect about Matt Reeves toying with The Joker in The Batman world is that, frankly, he doesn’t sound like he’s in a rush to make it happen just yet. Considering how the film ends with Colin Farrell's Oswald "The Penguin" Cobblepot looking like the new big bad, that much is apparent. When speaking with Variety about the ending to the film, Reeves further highlighted his rationale in using The Joker, with the following statement about the character's potential future:  

It’s not an Easter egg scene. It’s not one of those end credits Marvel or DC scenes where it’s going, like, ‘Hey, here’s the next movie!’ In fact, I have no idea when or if we would return to that character in the movies.

There’s no pressure to include The Joker in The Batman’s sequel, unless there’s some sort of secret studio chatter with Matt Reeves that we don’t know about. Should that be the case, there’s a good reason not to rush into bringing this clearly important character back to Gotham City just yet: it’s not a play you should use lightly. When the time is right and the villain is developed perfectly, Reeves’ Joker could be the head-turner that stands next to, or surpasses, the moment Heath Ledger got to leave his mark on the character in The Dark Knight.

It’s still the early days for The Batman, which cleaned up at the box office for a second weekend in a row. The strategy that Matt Reeves, his cast and crew used to make this first time out was effective enough to deliver a resounding hit. Such a win only bolsters his position to call the shots into the future, and Warner Bros are probably just as confident to let Reeves climb into the Batmobile of his mind and deliver another masterpiece. The Batman is currently in theaters, and there are upcoming DC movies on the way to make 2022 a rebound year for the comics company’s cinematic canon. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.