Joker is now out in theaters, and director Todd Phillips' daring Joker origin story is now at the mercy of audience opinions. So far, viewers seem to be enjoying Joker (even if critics are more split over the film). After all, star Joaquin Phoenix's performance as disturbed would-be entertainer Arthur Fleck is being universally hailed as a one man tour-de-force performance, which successfully completes the arc of a dark downward spiral that ends in an even darker rise to infamy. However, while Joker is intensely focused on its titular character, this particular villain origin story must inevitably give nod to Batman's origin, as well.
Here are the FULL SPOILERS of How Joker Creates a New Batman Origin Story!
Much of Joker's storyline revolves around Arthur Fleck's mental unraveling - but also the mystery of the troubled man's origins. Arthur's mother, Penny, is obsessed with Thomas Wayne, and continually tells Arthur that Thomas will be the key to saving them. For Arthur, Penny's talk is all just a function of her oncoming dementia - until the day he actually opens up one of the letters Penny sends to Thomas, and learns a shocking truth: the letter claims that during the decades Penny worked for Thomas, they created a child together, and that child was Arthur.
This revelation sets Arthur off an a manic mission. He stalks Thomas Wayne at the gates of Wayne manor, where he has a very creepy encounter with young Bruce Wayne, arguably assaulting the boy by forcing his mouth into a creepy grin. When Arthur is chased away by Alfred, he tries to get at Thomas directly, by sneaking into a black tie showing of Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" and confronting Thomas in the restroom. Thomas angrily informs Arthur that Penny was crazy, and that he, Arthur, was actually an adopted child, that Penny allowed to be grossly abused by her various boyfriends. That horrible revelation is enough to finally push Arthur fully over the edge, as he smothers Penny in her hospital bed, and fully becomes "Joker" in the process.
Arthur's reign of terror as Joker manages to infect all of Gotham with his madness: the police pursuing him are swallowed up in a mob of clown-masked rioters, and Arthur's big comedic debut on Live! With Murray Franklin ends with the deranged Joker murdering Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) on live TV. That assassination pushes the angry destitute citizens of Gotham over the edge themselves, as mass riots break out. Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne are seen leaving a screening of the movie Excalibur as rioters break Arthur/Joker loose from police custody nearby; the swell of violence leads to one clown-masked rioter following the Waynes down an alley, where he guns down Thomas and Martha, leaving Bruce spattered in their blood and forever changed.
Essentially, what Joker has done is connect the mythos of Batman and The Joker's inescapable rivalry in a much more intimate way than we've seen before. The film locks the story of Arthur Fleck/Joker and The Wayne Family in a powerful cause/effect cycle, that invokes themes of class, wealth inequality, and even healthcare. It's the inaction of men like Thomas Wayne that made Gotham the cauldron that brewed a madman like Arthur Fleck - and it is Fleck's madness that creates the Gotham that devours the Waynes, and provokes Bruce to "cure" the city by becoming the Batman.
...It's also a pretty compelling argument for why Batman pretty much hates clowns for the rest of his life.
Joker is now in theaters. Upcoming DC Movies include Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2020.