The Last Laugh

The Batman director reveals his Joker's ridiculous new origin story

A few weeks after The Batman’s theatrical release, fans were treated to another surprise when director Matt Reeves released a deleted scene from the film. The scene sees Robert Pattinson’s Batman pay a visit to Barry Keoghan’s Joker at Arkham State Hospital in the hopes of getting some new insight into the mind of Paul Dano’s Riddler.

The scene runs just a little over five minutes long, and unlike the Joker scene that was kept in The Batman, it gives viewers a clear look at Keoghan’s take on the iconic comic book villain. With numerous close-ups of his bloodied hands and arms, and his scarred mouth, the scene makes it clear what separates Reeves’ Joker from those that have come before him.

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In a recent interview, Reeves also offered some interesting information about the origins of his Joker, including some details that aren’t revealed in either of Keoghan’s scenes.

The latest incarnation of the Joker.Warner Bros. Pictures

A Cruel Joke — Speaking with Variety about his take on The Joker, Matt Reeves said, “He has a congenital disease where he can’t stop smiling and it’s horrific.” Expanding further on Keoghan’s cunning version of Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, Reeves added, “It’s not about some version where he falls into a vat of chemicals and his face is distorted, or what [Christopher] Nolan did, where there’s some mystery to how he got these scars carved into his face.”

Instead, Reeves revealed that Keoghan’s Joker has been forced to smile his entire life and, in response to the reactions he’s received, has formed the kind of cynical perspective that will be familiar to fans of Batman’s arch-nemesis. “Even as a child, people looked at him with horror,” Reeves said. “And his response was to say, ‘Okay, so a joke was played on me,’ and this was his nihilistic take on the world.”

Barry Keoghan as The Joker in Matt Reeves’ The Batman.Warner Bros. Pictures

A Terrifying Reinterpretation — Whether you like it or hate it, Reeves’ version of The Joker is an original one. The Joker, notably, is a character whose origin story has yet to be officially confirmed in the comics. Instead, while different writers have come up with different origins over the years, every one has always been sold as simply being what could have created The Joker rather than what definitively did.

That said, most of the Joker’s origin stories have involved some version of the character falling into a vat of chemicals. Reeves’ version, someone who was born with a disease that made him the target of ridicule, is certainly a unique origin story for the character. It makes the character unexpectedly self-reflective while also being, thanks to his physical design, one of the most visually grotesque imaginings.

Smile for the camera.Warner Bros. Pictures

The Inverse Analysis — It’s still unclear how extensively Reeves plans on exploring Keoghan’s Joker on-screen, or if the writer-director even intends to bring him back in a sequel or spin-off to The Batman. However, the director’s comments about the origins of Keoghan’s Joker make a lot of sense considering what Reeves did with so many other DC Comics characters in The Batman.

Much like Dano’s Riddler, Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, and Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, Keoghan’s Joker is someone whose present day self has been defined by something that was forced onto him when he was still a child. Unlike those characters, however, we still have yet to see what he’s truly capable of.

The Batman is now playing in theaters.

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