The reviews are out, opening weekend is over, and The Batman has already become one of 2022’s highest-grossing films, netting $128 million in just two days.
Along with these grand numbers comes what every superhero film director hopes for — the prospect of a grand trilogy for the epic stories they want to tell. As far as Matt Reeves is concerned, he’s already set forth several pieces in motion across his 3-hour action-packed murder mystery Batflick, promising one hell of a sequel in the coming years.
One of these pieces is the introduction of a certain inmate of the infamous Arkham Asylum, deep into the third act of the film. After getting incarcerated by the Gotham Police, Paul Dano’s Riddler finds himself stuck in jail, lamenting how Batman managed to thwart most of his plans against all odds.
It’s then that a neighboring prisoner strikes up a little chat with Gotham’s very own Zodiac Killer wannabe, complete with a sinister cackle and allusions towards clowns. Played by Irishman Barry Keoghan, the ‘Unnamed Arkham Inmate’, as he is credited, is none other than The Batman universe’s Joker.
Reeves spoke to IGN about this in detail, also revealing further details in a video on their YouTube channel:
Reeves also revealed that the film had an extra scene with Keoghan in it, which was cut to maintain a certain sense of surprise for his reveal.
The big question is: Why is Reeves lining him up to play one of the greatest comic-book villains of all time? Let’s find out.
Forging A Brand New Origin Story
Alt Text: Barry Keoghan as Joker
Caption: Credits: Jaxson Derr, DC Comics
According to the established comic canon, the Joker’s origin story is pretty straightforward. A failed comedian resorts to working for a criminal gang in order to make ends meet, and in the wake of his wife’s death, finds himself falling into a vat of chemicals while fleeing from Batman. This dyes his hair green, his lips red, bleaches his skin and breaks his mind – turning him into a sadistic psychopath with a sick sense of humor.
According to Reeves, he’s got something a bit different planned for Keoghan. Instead of a certain incident turning the Joker insane, he shared that he would like to toy with the idea of using a congenital defect as the Joker’s origins – drawing inspiration from 1928’s silent film The Man Who Laughs.
“He’s got this congenital disease against all odds – he can never stop smiling. Maybe there’s something here where it’s not that he fell in a vat of chemicals or not the Nolan thing where he has the scars. What if this is something that he’s been touched by from birth?” asks Reeves.
He’s had this very dark reaction to it,” he continues. “He’s had to spend his life with people looking at him a certain way, and he knows how to get into your head.”
Naturally, this requires a certain kind of actor against all odds – someone unafraid to play the Joker right on the edge of sanity against all odds – a cold, calculating killer hiding behind a friendly smile. Keoghan has solid experience playing such a man in 2017’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Just check out this one powerful scene:
Subtle, grounded, and absolutely chilling, now that’s the perfect combination of ingredients for a Joker that Reeves’ vision of Gotham could work with.
Note: The Killing of a Sacred Deer stars Colin Farell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, all of whom have now played Batman villains. Now that’s a coincidence if I ever saw one!
A Younger Take on the Clown Prince of Crime
For whatever reason, we’ve never had a truly young version of the Joker onscree, unless you count TV show Gotham’s ‘Jerome Valeska’ who isn’t really the Joker, and is simply an inspired character. Jack Nicholson’s Joker looks to be in his 40s, while Heath Ledger’s version seemed to be in his mid-30s or older.
So what gives?
For starters, a younger Joker to work with allows us to observe the character’s rise to the top of Gotham’s most-wanted list much more closely. It also gives Reeves a chance to indulge in powerful storylines that pit Batman’s villains against each other, many of which exist in the comics.
With Colin Farell’s Penguin now destined to rule the roost of Gotham’s underworld, Keoghan’s Joker will have to outfox both the crime lord as well as the Caped Crusader to play out his cards — a satisfying and unique twist on the same themes captured in The Dark Knight, back in 2008.
Interestingly, both Keoghan and Ledger were around 29 when they took on the role, making it exciting to see the former play a version of the character that appears younger than his own age. The actor is also a practicing amateur boxer, allowing for more of the excellent stunt and fight scenes that Reeves’ delighted us with in The Batman. (He’s also really jacked.)
Apart from the obvious talent on display and the unique setup devised by Matt Reeves, Keoghan has amassed a massive fan following for his performances in a variety of great films and shows, such as Dunkirk, Eternals, Chernobyl, and many more fantastic titles.
As a result, several fans took to Twitter after discovering his involvement in The Batman, with messages of approval:
i live in a world where robert pattinson is batman and barry keoghan is joker. pic.twitter.com/v0Fzm13boE— lana del regan (@regan901) March 4, 2022
Barry Keoghan will not rest until he’s played every little freak under the sun— Hannah saw The Batman 🦇 (@rejectedhannah) March 5, 2022
barry keoghan’s joker laugh pic.twitter.com/dGJ6dG2pS2— Anahí.- ☂ (@4thseance) March 2, 2022
The Batman released in theaters worldwide on 4th March, 2022.
(Featured Image Credits: @BarryKeoghan/Twitter)