Note: Contains major spoilers for Joker.
Hidden among the debate has been the typical talk about whether we’ll be seeing Joaquin Phoenix again as Arthur Fleck in a Joker sequel. And we’re sorry to say that we just don’t think it’ll happen.
Why do we think that? Well, mainly because it sounds as though co-writer and director Todd Phillips has ruled it out.
Back in August, Phillips told Total Film that he “would do anything with Joaquin, any day of the week”, adding: “[If] 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.”
This was misconstrued into confirmation that they would do a sequel to their standalone DC offering. But Phillips later clarified his comments by saying that “we have no plan for a sequel”.
He said that Joker is “not set up” for a sequel and that they always “pitched it as one movie”, and it certainly feels that way.
There are some spoilers ahead, so look away now if you haven’t seen Joker yet.
By the end of Joker, Arthur has completed his transformation into the Joker.
Yes, he kills three Wayne Enterprises employees earlier on in the movie, but it’s not until he’s suffocated his mother that he begins to adopt the classic look. He murders former colleague Randall (although lets Gary go as he was “nice” to him), before making an appearance on Murray Franklin’s live talk show.
Murray only wants him on the show to further mock Arthur for his terrible stand-up performance, but Arthur has other plans in mind. After a rant that sees him admit to the earlier killings and say how society has let him down, he kills Murray in cold blood and calmly waits for police to arrive.
Riots have broken out across Gotham City though and when police try to transport him to the station, the car is attacked and Arthur is held up by the crowd who now know he’s the figurehead of their rebellion against the city’s elite.
The final scene shows Arthur locked up in Arkham State Hospital, presumably arrested after the riots were controlled by the police, and the final shot of the movie is him dancing down the corridor.
Now, of course, the scope is there for a sequel because Arthur – or Joker as he asks Murray to call him – is still alive, and there’s always the chance that he could be broken out of the hospital.
That feels like a very comic-book move, though, and would feel out of place in the world that Todd Phillips has set Joker in. We don’t even know for sure that Bruce Wayne will grow up to avenge his parents (who are killed during the riots) in this particular world.
Unlike the Joker in The Dark Knight or the earlier Batman movies, Arthur doesn’t seem the type to scheme up a villainous masterplan. His actions are driven by instinct and he only goes after Murray as he’s shown to be obsessive over the talk-show host.
That doesn’t mean that Phillips and Phoenix couldn’t find a fresh way to approach a sequel, and the director did not deny that they’ve “bounced around ideas”. However, it seems to have been mainly for their own personal enjoyment rather than concrete ideas for a Joker 2.
“Well, I don’t think we’re gonna make a second one,” Phillips said in a recent interview, adding that their ideas came when they were filming Joker “because that’s what you do sometimes”.
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It feels like if we’re going to get a continuation of this particular DC world that Phillips has established, it’ll be in the form of further one-off versions of classic DC characters.
Joker was reported to be setting up a new ‘label’ within the Worlds of DC for movies that were not in the main timeline, but were new takes on their established characters that didn’t have to worry about continuity.
Should Joker do well enough at the box office (and it’s predicted to have a record-breaking opening), the possibilities are endless for further standalone reinventions of DC villains – or even heroes.
That seems like the most obvious route forward at the moment, but maybe Joker does so well that Phillips and Phoenix will have to make those Joker 2 “ideas” a reality.
Joker is out now in cinemas.