With Joker now in theaters, the millions of dollars in box office sales worth of moviegoers are walking out with a common question. Following Arthur Fleck's origin story, a true descent into madness to become the Clown Prince of Gotham, there is a certain aspect of the ending leaving fans with a massive mystery. Director Todd Phillips is aware of this big question and enjoys that fans are going to be talking about, offering a little bit off insight on that, himself.
Warning. Spoilers for Joker follow. Major spoilers!
Following a pair of narrative fakeouts earlier in the film, Arthur Fleck posed the possibility of Joker's entire narrative being a made up story in his head. Much like his happy interaction with Murray Franklin and finding a girlfriend in his neighbor, the movie is posed as one big joke when Arthur tells his counselor, "You wouldn't get it."
ComicBook.com asked director Todd Phillips if the movie's overall narrative was real in that world's canon or if Arthur Fleck made the whole thing up:
"When Scott Silver and I sat down to write it, we knew enough about the comics," Phillips said. "I read comics when I was a kid, we knew he didn't have an origin story. We also, I don't want to say whether it's real or not because I think part of the fun, I've shown it to many, many different people and they all have a different reaction. Some of them say, 'Oh I get it, I mean the last line in the movie, you wouldn't get it, to a joke he was telling. Well is the joke the movie? Is the joke the thing? Or is the thing about the --' The idea is you don't like to answer those questions, because its nice to see the different things people take away from it."
So, Phillips isn't ready to disclose whether or not the movie's story is real, but it seems he did intentionally created that discussion.
If the story were to have been true, it is still up to the audience to decide which character they believe when it comes to Joker's origin story. Is Arthur's mom telling the truth about Thomas Wayne? Is Thomas Wayne telling the truth about Arthur being adopted? Does he have another parent out there somewhere? The origin story has still not been locked in to any definitive story.
"That was the idea, the idea that all of 'My past is multiple,'" Philips said. "I like to think of my past as multiple choice, it's a little bit of like, 'Wait, did that happen? Did this?' It's really kind of fun when you make a movie with an unreliable narrator. There is no greater unreliable narrator than Joker. He's an unreliable narrator and he's Joker, so it's sort of like a double whammy, and so I think that lends to people's reaction to the movie and I like that people don't really know what happened. There are certain things if you see it again, on a second viewing, you'll notice about that white room at the end that kind of picks up at the beginning, and you go, 'Oh, wait a minute, that's interesting.' Its kind of one of those."2comments
Joker is now playing in theaters.