Warning: The following contains spoilers for “The Batman.”
When “The Batman” hit theaters, fans and critics alike praised co-writer and director Matt Reeves’ new vision for the Caped Crusader, but one scene in particular was the subject of much chatter post-release. We’re talking, of course, about the scene at the end of the film in which Paul Dano’s The Riddler is revealed to be sharing a cell at Arkham Asylum with someone credited as “Unseen Arkham Prisoner” who has a very distinctive laugh.
Yes indeed, Reeves has since confirmed that this character – played by actor Barry Keoghan – will eventually become the iconic Batman villain The Joker, but isn’t yet fully formed. In fact, there was an earlier scene between Robert Pattinson’s Batman and Keoghan’s prisoner in the film that was cut, in which Batman went to this prisoner as a sort of Hannibal Lecter to consult on his investigation into the Riddler’s crimes.
While that earlier scene was cut, the other scene remains – although for a time this other scene was removed from the film as well. Reeves reveals on the director’s commentary for “The Batman” (currently available as an Apple exclusive) why he decided to keep this Joker scene in the movie.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Is this a set up for another movie?’ and to be honest it really isn’t,” Reeves says on the commentary track. “This for me was tracking because Paul and The Riddler was in the action of the third act in a very particular way, and the last we’d seen him he was saying ‘Boom!’ in his window as the bombs went off, and we hadn’t yet seen him take in the fact that Batman had been able to pull things back from the brink and that his plan had not played out, I really wanted to see the end of that arc for Riddler.”
When Reeves played the film without this scene, the film was missing an ending to The Riddler’s story arc. “By not having this scene, not only did you not get to see what I think is a fantastic performance from both actors, from Barry and from Paul here and when Paul starts laughing after Barry does I find it so delightful, and it was a great texture change and a tonal change from what is a sort of painful ending to the movie. But also it changed the stakes of the finale scene. When Selina says to [Batman], ‘You know that this place is never gonna change,’ and he’s like ‘I gotta try,’ this idea that trouble is already brewing again. That in this moment of the power vacuum that people are already scheming. When you took this scene out it didn’t have that sort of same resonance and the idea that he could go away with her seemed more reasonable and you thought, well gee why is he staying?”
Reeves was quick to add that this scene between The Riddler and a pre-Joker Joker wasn’t intended as an Easter egg, and was all about drilling down the need for Batman in Gotham City. “So that was critical, actually, to the ending of the movie and to the finishing of the Riddler’s arc as well. What we’ll do with these characters in the future remains to be seen, but it was never meant to be an Easter egg scene, to say like, ‘Oh guess who we’re using in the next movie.’ It was meant to be something delicious for the audience to sort of experience those two characters meeting, and in fact for the Unseen Prisoner to say to him, ‘Riddle me this,’ which is of course right out of ‘Batman’ 66.”
Warner Bros. has not yet officially announced a sequel to “The Batman,” but as the film has grossed $750 million worldwide it seems likely that Reeves and Pattinson’s time in Gotham City is far from an end. Which Rogues Gallery villain will pop up next is anyone’s guess, but Barry Keoghan’s character clearly has a journey ahead of him that would be fun to watch play out on screen.