Is the Joker in ‘The Batman?’

What’s dark, mysterious, and only a few months away? It doesn’t take the Riddler to tell us that the answer is The Batman, one of the most anticipated films of 2022. After pandemic delays, some impressive trailers have boosted excitement for the film that will kick off a new era for the Dark Knight. Information on the film’s plot has been tightly guarded, but a new international trailer (which you can see below) has turned speculation up a notch with just three months to go.  

We know that The Batman will introduce Robert Pattinson as a young Bruce Wayne ⏤ the first incarnation to arrive in movie theaters in an impending multiverse of Batmen. The Flash will star some familiar Caped Crusaders when the Scarlet Speedster visits multiple Gothams in Nov. 2022. But despite that space-bending adventure promising to return Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck to the cowl, all eyes will be on The Batman, with writer and director Matt Reeves’ vision set to define the cinematic future of the Dark Knight for years to come. 

Reeves took the directing reins from Affleck, who abandoned his attempts to make a film focusing on a younger Batman inspired by legendary comic storylines like Frank Miller’s Year One (1987) and Jeph Leb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween (1996).

We know that Reeves’ film picked up those inspirations and lesser-known but influential storylines like Mike W. Barr’s Year Two (1987) and Darwyn Cooke’s Batman, Ego (2000). These influences suggest a psychological crime thriller where a fresh but trusted Batman is already working with the Gotham City Police Department. An even better indication of where Reeves is taking the Dark Knight may come from his film inspirations, including gritty crime classics The French Connection (1971) and Chinatown (1976).

Friends and enemies

Image via Warner Bros.

The Batman’s trailers have given us a glimpse of Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne and the allies and opposition he will encounter. Jeffrey Wright’s Captain James Gordon will take point in the GCPD while Andy Serkis’ Alfred will provide Batcave support. Batman will certainly meet Selina Kyle’s Catwoman on the rooftops of Gotham and probably in the upper circles of society in the form of Zoë Kravitz.

On a darker note, we’re itching to see what the dangerous games Paul Dano’s Riddler has in store for the Dark Knight. It looks like the Penguin, played by an almost unrecognizable Colin Farrell, will be coming off badly in his scraps with Gotham’s guardian. These characters appear in the film’s inspirations, particularly The Long Halloween. But there is one villain from that story who’s notable only by his absence — the Caped Crusader’s infamous arch-enemy. 

Could the Joker be popping up to say hello next year as well?

Is the Joker in The Batman?

Batman fans have had good practice picking apart trailers for clues, and the most recent one has led some Ridders-in-waiting to think that the Clown Prince of Crime will, in fact, appear in The Batman

The film’s international trailer, which was released on Dec. 12, teases an active Joker in the universe. Eagle-eyed fans have picked up on a mysterious grinning character, barely visible in the background of a photograph on a wall of scrap images.  

The_Batman_Joker_Tease

The end of the trailer is even more compelling, as Batman appears to unmask in front of a cell we can only assume is in Arkham Asylum. We don’t see who’s revealed behind the rising screen, but there is the hint of a strangely pale neck. The voiceover, name-checking Batman’s secret identity, is followed by a worrying laugh.

It’s fair to say that we’ve not had a good look at Dano as the unmasked Riddler, and the subtitle of the trailer is “The Riddler unmasks Batman.” It’s also fair to say that the filmmakers know what they’re doing with this kind of tease. It’s one of the great benefits that comes with Batman’s incredible gallery of villains.

As the film picks up at least a year into Batman’s career, it’s to be expected that this incarnation of the Caped Crusader has already encountered his clownish nemesis. The comic book Joker first appeared in Batman #1 (1940), and despite multiple crises changing DC continuity, he has been consistently regarded as one of Batman’s oldest foes. 

If the Joker does play a part in The Batman, it’s a spectacular sleight of hand from Warner Bros. Pictures. Some fans have speculated that the secret’s been hiding in plain sight for some time. It’s notable that rising star Barry Keoghan, fresh off Marvel’s Eternals, is listed as playing Stanley Merkel in the film. Merkel is a police officer who partnered with Jim Gordon before meeting a sticky end in the comics. That partnership doesn’t seem likely in this continuity despite the emphasis on Batman’s relationship with the GCPD. It’s a casting choice that makes you think, especially as Keoghan has been conspicuously absent from publicity. 

After the revelation of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role in Dark Knight Rises, are we being lined up to fall for the same trick twice?

Infinite Jokers

Joker

Anything is possible when it comes to DC’s new multiverse-friendly approach. That’s clear from the three (or more) versions of Batman appearing on the big screen in 2022. If there are multiple heroes, there must be villainous variants, too. While yet to be announced, rumors persist that a sequel to 2019’s $1 billion-grossing Joker is in the works, with Joaquin Phoenix returning to the iconic role. The Batman’s continuity requires a different incarnation and there’s plenty of room in an infinite number of Gothams.

Signs are good that Robert Pattinson’s turn in the cape and cowl will launch a renewed franchise across multiple channels. Two HBO Max spin-off series ⏤ focusing on the GCPD and Penguin, respectively ⏤ are in development. With a strangely bright future planned for this Dark Knight, it can’t be long before the Joker makes a deadly impression. There may be a compelling need for this vital player to appear before too long. While it appears that Reeves’ take is the darkest cinematic Batman yet, it’s said that the director has taken some inspiration from the 1960s Batman TV series. Rather than influencing the tone, this could suggest the vigilante’s close links to the GCPD. It could also mean a Gotham where the villains are more likely to work together than take on the Dark Knight one by one.

The question isn’t if the Joker will arrive, but whether it will be sooner than we think. As for the trailer, that might just be what the Riddler would describe as being wet and red and having us all fooled…

With or without the Joker, The Batman arrives in movie theaters on March 4, 2022.