Joker

Todd PhillipsJoker was undoubtedly one of the most hotly debated movies of the year. While some praised it as a groundbreaking comic book movie with poignant social commentary, others found the film to have an unclear message and felt it was trying too hard to be an Oscar contender, despite an award-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix. But if filmmaker Kevin Smith is to be believed, audiences could have ended up arguing about the film’s shocking alternate ending which would have drastically changed comic book history.

As it stands, Joker ends with Gotham City descending into chaos as lower class citizens take to the streets to riot against the wealthy who keep kicking them while they’re down. Inspired by Joker’s stand against the establishment (albeit something he didn’t intend), upper class citizens are harassed and robbed, including Thomas and Martha Wayne, who are murdered on screen again as a way of showing us how and why Bruce Wayne became Batman. The final shot features Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck talking about this finale to a psychiatrist in a mental hospital before we see him make a run down a white hallway having seemingly killed the doctor he was speaking with. But it almost went in an even darker direction.

In a recent episode of Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast (around the 16:35 mark), the filmmaker cited “somebody who works in the business, they’re in the know, fucking super smart, and a great storyteller” telling him about an alternate ending to Joker that never came to fruition. The final scene still happened in the mental hospital, but instead of killing the psychiatrist, Fleck laughs to himself after telling the story. The doctor would have asked why he was laughing, to which Arthur would have said, “I was just thinking of something funny.”

Suddenly, the film would flash back to the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, this time at the hands of Arthur Fleck. As usual, Bruce Wayne is left crying next to his dead parents. But as Arthur walks away from the scene of the crime, he would stop, look back, shrug, and shoot Bruce Wayne. Cut to credits.

Honestly, that would have been a much more intriguing ending then what ended up in Phillips’ final cut. It changes comic history a bit by having Bruce Wayne be even more of a victim himself. Smith takes this to mean that the movie implies that there would be no Batman and this madness would engulf the city and never have a hero to protect it, which is pretty damn bleak, but also rather perfect for 2019. But it could also easily been see as a way to make Joker even more of a nemesis since he tried to kill Bruce. Who’s to say that the boy doesn’t survive and still become Batman?

Perhaps that kind of ending was deemed far too dark (if it’s real), even with that open-ended possibility. Plus, even though it’s a departure from the comics, it wouldn’t really change Bruce Wayne’s origin enough to make a significant difference in the trajectory of events that leads to him becoming Batman. Still, it’s an interesting thought, and it makes us wonder if comic book movie producers will ever be bold enough to take extreme liberties with comic characters. At some point, audiences will become so familiar with these comic book origins that some major changes will need to be made to make them interesting whenever an inevitable reboot comes around. There have been plenty of changes made to comic book arcs that are adapted for the big screen, but arguably nothing this groundbreaking…yet.

Update: For what it’s worth, Steve Weintraub from Collider says Smith’s story is not true.

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