Joker is supposed to be a standalone movie, an art-house film masquerading as a comic book blockbuster. That means no post-credits scene teasing an extended cinematic universe and no Joker 2 sequel. At least, that’s what we thought. However, one recent interview with director Todd Phillips makes it sound like a Joker 2 release date isn’t totally off-limits.
Speaking to Total Film magazine, Phillips revealed the one reason he’d consider making Joker 2: Joaquin Phoenix. Apparently, working with the enigmatic Oscar-nominated actor was such a treat that Phillips would go back on his word and make a sequel.
Here’s the quote in question (emphasis added):
One thing I will tell you: I would do anything with Joaquin, any day of the week. There’s nobody like him. If he was willing to do it, and if people show up to this movie, and Warners came to us and said, ‘You know what? If you guys could think of something…’ Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool.
Ok, so a sequel could happen, but only if Joker ticket sales are high, Warner Bros. decides it wants Joker 2, and Joaquin Phoenix agrees to do it. That said, the first two seem like a lock. Considering the hype (and controversy) around the movie, Warner will probably see a big payday at the box office. Whether Phoenix is interested in a sequel remains to be seen, especially considering the bad press he’s personally received while promoting Joker — even if some of it was just a choreographed publicity stunt.
That said, maybe the real question we should be asking is whether Joker’s ending even merits a sequel. To answer that question, we’re going to have to spoil the movie. So be warned, spoilers for Joker ahead.
As promised, Joker is an origin story, revealing how Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) slowly transforms into the classic Batman villain thanks to a series of unfortunate events (he’s mugged and then he kills a few Wall Street bros who work for Wayne Enterprises) and some depressing revelations (he’s adopted and his mentally ill mother allowed her boyfriend to physically abuse him as a child). Combine that with Arthur’s own psychological issues (he’s taking seven different types of medication when Joker) begins and it’s easy to see how he steps into the shoes of a mass-murdering supervillain.
By the end of the movie, Arthur has become Joker. He’s killed a late night talk show host (Robert De Niro’s character) live on-air and incited violent rights across Gotham City. After briefly escaping from police custody, the movie’s final scene jumps forward to show Arthur now incarcerated in Arkham Asylum. He speaks briefly to an employee and then the camera cuts to a light-filled hallway as Arthur walks back to his cell with blood all over his shoes. The implication is that he’s gone full Joker and killed yet again.
As the movie ends, we see Joker turn right at the end of the hallway only to run back on screen a moment later as he’s pursued by Arkham guards. It almost feels slapstick or a Looney Tunes ending. Th-Th-Th-That’s All Folks!
But is it? On the one hand, now that this version of the Joker exists, there’s plenty more he can do. Joker 2 could focus on Arthur Fleck’s escape from Arkham and his attempts to build some sort of criminal empire, though that wouldn’t really fit with the tone of the original movie. The more interesting move might be to jump forward a decade and explore the version of Batman that Joker creates near the ending when some other criminal in a clown mask guns down Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their child, Bruce.
Of course, pitting Phoenix’s Joker against Batman presents a different type of challenge, since the movie’s ending takes place about ten years before Bruce Wayne becomes the Dark Knight. Then again, it would be easy enough to fix that with a bit of makeup, or, better yet, simply wait a few years and allow Joaquin Phoenix to age naturally.
The best version of Joker 2 might be one that doesn’t arrive for years, giving Bruce Wayne a chance to grow up and Gotham City a chance to fall even further into decay under Joker’s influence. That might mean waiting a very long time for a Joker 2 release date, but considering how Joker turned out, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Joker is in theaters now.