While Todd Phillips got the last laugh in 2019, it turns out Joker‘s original ending was much darker and delivered a horrifying Batman twist that would’ve completely changed the history of the Dark Knight.
After acclaimed performances from the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, the Clown Prince of Crime divided fandom with Jared Leto’s version in 2016’s Suicide Squad. When news of a Joker origin movie with Joaquin Phoenix started doing the rounds, there were more than a few skeptics that The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Thankfully, they were wrong!
When the credits rolled on Joker, fans were left with more questions than answers. The whole niche of the movie was that we’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s in the head of Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck. Joker‘s final scene saw Fleck joyfully dance down the corridor of Arkham State Hospital after seemingly slaying his new doctor.
There’s been a lot of debate over what this meant, with Phillips reiterating it was always supposed to be up for interpretation. Speaking on his Fatman Beyond podcast, Kevin Smith reveals the very different (and very dark) ending Phillips originally had in mind. “Originally, the ending in the hospital was different.
“He’s in the hospital and he laughs, chuckles, and he says, ‘I was just thinkin’ of something funny.’ What was supposed to happen was you flashed back to the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne and it was him killing Thomas and Martha Wayne and the boy was screaming and crying and he turned to walk away and he turned back, shrugged, and shot the kid. Credits.”
Talk about a gut punch. Taking a leaf out of Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989, Joker would’ve had Mr. J himself being responsible for the death of the Waynes. The idea of Joker creating Batman by accident formed a huge part of the Michael Keaton-led movie.
Joker sort of plays on this thanks to Fleck’s clown riots leading to a masked shooter gunning down the Waynes in the infamous Crime Alley. Having the anonymous clown revealed as Fleck would’ve been one hell of a way to round off the comic book caper.
Alongside the death of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, it just wouldn’t be a Batman story without revisiting that fateful night Bruce is orphaned. There have been various bits added/taken away from the mythology over the years, but their death has remained a constant. Joker was never conventional with its narrative, but just imagine seeing Fleck behind the mask for a real jaw-drop moment.
Interestingly, the darker ending would’ve thrown even more ambiguity into the mix on whether any of the movie was real or simply conjured up by the downtrodden and unhinged street clown. Given that there was a heavy implication Fleck was the illegitimate son of Thomas Wayne, the dark ending would also added another layer to this dynamic.
Phillips always confirmed Joker was going to be set in its own world outside the established continuity of the DC Extended Universe, meaning it’s entirely possible Bruce Wayne was killed alongside his parents and Batman never came to be.
Since Joker bowed out of the box office as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, there have been continued talks of a possible sequel. Although Phillips had maintained it would be a single movie story, even the director has teased there could be more to come from the Fleck-Verse.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Warner Bros. will once again ‘send in the clowns’ or we’re left with Arthur Fleck’s fun-filled finale. Watch this space!
[Featured Image: Warner Bros.]