Before Joker came out, DC fans were worried about the idea of a movie telling the definitive origins story for a character who’s traditionally had a “multiple choice” past. Our fears were unfounded, though, as Todd Phillips’ film was much more ambiguous and open to interpretation than we were anticipating. In fact, by the end, we’re left unsure if Arthur Fleck is even the real Joker who’ll go on to become Batman’s nemesis.
But what does Fleck himself, Joaquin Phoenix, think about this mystery? Is he really the Joker? Well, the actor got straight to the point of his view on the film while chatting to The Los Angeles Times, saying: “I mean, to me, yes, he is.” He went on to stress, though, that this is just his own personal opinion and he’s always keen to lean into the potential to make Joker as open-ended as possible.
“There was something that was great about the mystery of it. Todd and I talked a lot about how this is one of the few opportunities that you have where people don’t expect to know the definitive truth of the character — and not only that, they probably don’t want it. Usually, the demands of the movie are the opposite. I said, ‘We have to take advantage of that. Why would we not?’”
The reason why it’s unclear whether Fleck is 100% the Joker of legend is because of the final scenes. First of all, the movie’s climax sees Fleck inspiring a chaotic riot of folks in clown masks on the streets of Gotham. One – Joe Chill? – even murders Thomas and Martha Wayne. Any one of these could go on to become the actual Clown Prince of Crime instead.
Secondly, there’s also the interpretation that much of Joker actually happens within Fleck’s head and he’s really been locked up in Arkham State Hospital all this time. If that’s the case, he could have got the antics of the real Joker mixed up with his own memories and imagined himself as Gotham’s craziest citizen. Alternatively, like Phoenix thinks, maybe he’s the one and only Mister J after all.
Presumably, we’ll get more of a straight answer to this question if a Joker sequel ends up happening, which is looking very likely after its record-breaking box office return. Until then, though, feel free to speculate down below