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'The Batman' director Matt Reeves shot decoy scenes to protect one big reveal
The Batman went to great lengths to protect one particular character's identity.
At last, it's here. The Batman is finally in theaters, giving fans everywhere a long-awaited look at the latest cinematic incarnations of Batman, Catwoman, Jim Gordon, The Riddler, and more. With a runtime that reaches nearly three hours, the film is packed with moments fans will be talking about all weekend, from things we saw coming thanks to the trailers to things that director Matt Reeves and company worked hard to keep secret over more than a year. Now, we know that one of those secrets was so guarded that the film's shoot included decoy scenes to throw spoiler hunters off the scent.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for The Batman ahead.**
Though the film heavily features both Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) and The Penguin (Colin Farrell) in major supporting roles, the big villain of The Batman is The Riddler (Paul Dano), who spends much of the movie with all of Gotham City in his grip as he plots to expose and murder the city's elite, including Bruce Wayne. Of course, Batman eventually manages to track the Riddler down and lock him up in Arkham, where the trickster reveals his plot to blow up sections of Gotham's seawall and flood the city. Batman and company then address that problem, but even that's not the end of the Riddler's journey.
In his final scene in the film, Riddler discovers he has a rather talkative cellmate, played by none other than Eternals and The Green Knight star Barry Keoghan. We don't see much of the character's face, but his demeanor, his tendency to giggle, and his references to clowns all suggest that this character is an early version of this universe's Joker. Speaking to IGN, Reeves both confirmed that was the case, and addressed early reports from The Batman's set that Keoghan had been cast as a Gotham police officer named "Stanley Merkel." According to Reeves, the Merkel character was not an attempt to create an origin story for the Joker, but rather an attempt to keep Keoghan's real character a secret.
“When you're making a movie like this, you want it to be different, you want people to feel like they're having a special experience,” Reeves. “And then for me, when you're going to the cinema you want some level of surprise. I think one of the things I was worried about was speculation while we were making the movie, that we would be exploring the character that we ended up exploring. So we started thinking what we could do to throw people off that scent. This idea of making him Stanley Merkel was exactly that, because the police force is actually a big part of the story so it seemed credible that we could be doing that.”
In a video interview with IGN, Reeves further explained that he'd actually shot more scenes with the Joker character that ended up on the cutting room floor, including a scene in which Batman goes to the character for help in catching the new killer in an effort to profile one killer through the eyes of another. Though the plan was always to keep the character's face somewhat obscured, Reeves also disclosed that his Joker didn't get his trademark smile from scarring or a vat of chemicals, but from a congenital condition that he's had his entire life.
The director also went on to explain that he also considered cutting the single scene in the film featuring the Joker, but ultimately kept it in — not to set up a sequel appearance, necessarily, but to make a larger point about Gotham City's evolution.
"The scene is not meant to be there like 'Oh, here's an Easter egg, the next movie is X,'" Reeves said. "I don't know that the Joker would be in the next movie, but I can tell you that what you're seeing is an early days version of this character, and trouble, as always, is brewing in Gotham."
The idea of a Batman universe where Joker isn't running rampant, but is influencing things from within Arkham, is something we've seen in the comics before, but never gotten the chance to explore on the big screen. By keeping the character behind bars for now, Reeves is setting up some very interesting dynamics for the world of The Batman.