Film Theory: Joker Ending Explained (ft. Pitch Meeting)Feb 25, 2020
There are full spoilers for "Joker", but, you know, you clicked on a video titled "Ending Explained", so I assume you already knew that... Still, if I don't do this explicitly at the beginning of the video, the spoilers comments are going to be mad about it, so consider this your warning. So do you have a new comic book movie for me? Yes sir, I do. It's called "Joker". Wait, wait, you're not the usual guy. I sure am! Well if you say so. So tell me about this movie. So it follows a mentally ill man named Arthur Fleck, who, you know, is having the worst possible luck.
That's terrible! He works as a clown. That's good, but then they beat him up on the streets. That's terrible. He performs in front of the sick children in the hospital. That's good, but then he drops a gun in front of them and he gets fired from the job. Wow, okay, you're really taking me on a roller coaster of emotions here /: And that's just the beginning! Oh really? Yes Yes Yes! So he gets on the subway and shoots some bankers, right? Which starts citywide protests where all the people of Gotham want to kill the rich! Kill the rich!
Kill the rich! Oh, I hope they don't learn my salary... (Laughter) Yes, I hope not (tense music) Please stop looking at me like that Okay, I'll stop So anyway, Arthur's life really begins to change Finds himself a new girlfriend Gets invited to his favorite late-night talk show Becomes the leader of this public rebellion Good for him! he kills his mom, his co-workers, his favorite celebrity, and a lot of other people Oh my gosh, it's not good for him Oh no no no don't worry none of that really happens Fine, okay, 'cause for a second there - or not?!
Hope for? You see, it can all be vivid fantasies of Arthur's mental illness. That sounds confusing. I bet he is! Almost like everyone had to watch a video online that explains everything that happened in the movie to distinguish what was real from what was not (Meta) I hope so! YOU WILL WATCH THE FULL VIDEO, so are you going to explain it to me? Of course! It will be super easy just an inconvenience How much time do you have? Hello Internet! Welcome to Film Theory, where "Joker" has literally just hit theaters. I was lucky that Warner Brothers took me to the Toronto International Film Festival to see it a few weeks beforehand, which is partly how I was able to upload this video. soon But I have to say that I haven't stopped thinking about it since I first saw it.
Like "Batman Begins" and "Iron Man" before it, I strongly believe that this movie will pack a punch. about the stories superhero movies can tell over the next decade. It's gritty, violent, rude, heartbreaking but terrifying and, well, it's ambiguous. Joker" is a movie that constantly blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. As a result, many people will probably walk out of the theater this weekend excited by what they saw, but also a little puzzled. What exactly did they SAW? What is the TRUE story of Arthur Fleck? That, my fellow moviegoers, is the question we are exploring today.
You see, if taken at face value, "Joker" is a self-explanatory
film. We begin with Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man afflicted with multiple disorders, including pseudobulbar affect, a medical condition that causes him to spontaneously break out into uncontrollable fits of laughter, he is in a desperate condition, poverty-stricken and alone to care for his ailing mother, Penny Has Big dreams of one day doing stand-up comedy like his hero, late-night talk show host Murray Franklin, but in the meantime he makes a meager living. Usually as a clown doing billboard tour work and performing at various events in Gotham City, it's a thankless and brutal job with him being attacked on the streets by a group of young thugs who, for whatever reason, are genuinely committed to the sign theft, which on its own would be bad enough, but then to add insult to injury, your employer fines you for the broken sign.
Hey, it's not hello. It's his fault that that sign was built in a way that it would easily explode to pieces. Seriously, it's almost like that thing is a prop or something... and that's where the story really begins. A co-worker offers him a gun to protect himself, but the gun falls out of his pants while he was performing for the children at the hospital and he is fired. the work together. And can I just say that the hospital scene in this movie was brilliant, perfectly balancing tension, fear and humor? It's just a testament to how good this
filmis at balancing multiple tones. on the subway home, he is mugged by a trio of wealthy Wall Street traders.
But this time, Arthur fires back. He literally takes his weapon and reflexively kills the first two of his attackers before hunting down and finishing off the third. And it is this spark that ignites all the other plots in the film. The first, and biggest, directly follows the aftermath of this trio of murders of Thomas Wayne, father of the future Batman, in the midst of his campaign to become Gotham's next mayor. , he mocks crime and, simply put, labels Gotham's underprivileged as "clowns." This results in the downtrodden Gothamites taking the nameless killer clown as their figurehead. the rich All while Arthur watches the chaos he inadvertently started On the more personal front, Arthur becomes involved in a blossoming romance with Sophie, a single mother from the apartment building down the hall who even invites her to a routine at Pogo's Club. .
The routine is not going well. Her condition prevents her from telling a single joke and, as his mother says, "Well, it's not that funny." In fact, it goes so wrong that a clip of his performance goes viral, or at least viral in the 1980s New York sense, and he ends up on the very show he and his mom loved to watch: Ellen, right next to that yodelling kid from Wal-Mart Wait, that doesn't sound right, let me check my notes Oh yeah, his clip ends at the Murray Franklin Show where he's ridiculed by his personal hero And if that sounds bad, Well, that is until, of course, Murray's team reaches out to see if Arthur would like to appear on the show because his clip was a huge hit again, just like Ellen.
This time we will make fun of you in person. , but, you know, that's okay, because we'll make you famous for 15 minutes. Arthur says yes to the concert, more on that in a minute Speaking of being let down by father figures, his mother, Penny, used to work for Thomas Wayne And she insists, if he knew about her desperate condition, he'd be willing to offer them a hand. friend. Arthur is skeptical. he thinks he would care, until, twisted, he reads a letter his mother wrote to Thomas saying that he, Arthur, is actually Thomas Wayne's secret son. So he goes to Wayne Manor, which has surprisingly terrible security, he scares Alfred and Bruce. in a fantastic scene that's honestly only available on fanservice and trailers, and then he confronts Thomas Wayne at a movie premiere about being his beloved father in the most appropriate place to have that kind of conversation, the men's bathroom.
He talks about your awkward urinal. talks. But wait, double twist, Thomas reveals that he never had a relationship with Penny That instead Arthur was adopted and that it was all a last ditch attempt to get the Wayne family to pay attention to him Wanting to know the truth for himself. because of course Thomas Wayne wouldn't admit to that sort of thing, he actually steals Penny's file from Arkham Asylum only to find out that Wayne was telling the truth. He was not only adopted, but also, he was abused. ed by Penny and her boyfriend chained to a radiator, malnourished, assaulted, this neglect and trauma is largely to blame for his mental disorder.
So with this information in hand, he quickly engages in a very serious pillow fight. aggressive against her mother, to thank her for her role in all this that Penny loses. (Top 10 Fight Scenes) It's also important to note this major turning point in Arthur's story. At this point, Joker now has no identity. He's not a Fleck, he's not a Wayne, he's just an adopted child with no registered name True to form for any good Joker So, suffice to say Arthur is having a hard time He's the prime suspect in the subway murders, his ancestry it's like a game of hot potatoes and his stand-up career is on the rocks.
The only thing he has going for him is that appearance in Murray Franklin. We see him practice his entrance. He is weak. The jokes of him. He is a bit rude. And the only final joke from him. on camera will have more meaning than his life. Since Murray called him "Joker" when he was mocked on the show, that's the name he goes by: his clown persona but, in a meta sense, it's more than just a reference to that moment on the show. Remember, Arthur now he's a blank slate, w wiped himself clean of the past he thought he knew The Joker character is the only piece of identity he has left now It's the only character that has made him feel noticed and empowered Sure, it's empowerment through fear, but it is empowering nonetheless He physically and mentally transforms into the Joker, and is finally free and unrestrained.
This is reflected in the dance of him on the steps of the city that is on all the billboards. Loose and wild as a tube man in front of a used car dealer. He compares that to his little ballets. earlier in the film, who were cautious, restrained, shy, hiding in dark, abandoned bathrooms. He is a free man, unleashed, unrestrained. political statement: he sides with these rioters in Gotham, he sides with a murderer who killed three wealthy people in a subway Murray, when faced with this decision, he quashes his team's fears and allows Arthur to continue despite taking a chance, believing that the controversy will likely boost the show's popularity.
The show starts out pretty good, with Joker making it out for the cameras in his grand entrance, kissing his roommate on the couch, but quickly winds down when Murray asks Arthur to tell him. a Joke Joker reveals that he is the killer clown of the subway and goes on a rant about how everyone is horrible these days how people like him have become the joke of society ignored and mocked by everyone including Murray himself. In other words, what he's saying is that the underdogs are in fact the clowns here And it's time for the clowns to make a change He's no longer interested in killing himself on the show, he's targeting Murray for his finishing punch What do you get? when you come across a lonely mental patient? with a system that treats it like garbage?
You get what you deserve And with that he films Murray live on camera before being dragged off by the police But spurred on by that broadcast, the Gotham riots erupt into a violent frenzy The Wayne family flees the local opera house fearing for their lives. only to be cornered in an alley by a random rioter and shot at, flying pearls, and all of the Jokers rescued from the police car by his now devoted followers and placed, a Christ-like figure on its hood. When he finally comes to, he stands up. everyone, painting a big smile on his face with blood.
He has found his voice, he has found his audience. Look who's laughing now. The important point to keep in mind in all of this is that everything is random. Arthur never intended to start a rebellion. guy who was attacked, and attacked again, on a subway. He didn't go on Murray's show with a political speech ready; in fact, he intended to do the exact opposite. He had intended to kill the camera, hoping that his death had some kind of meaning behind it. He had no idea what he would be, only that he would do something. Instead, he doesn't. he just stays alive, he just stumbles over the words that ends up setting the town on fire.
There's no big plot against the Wayne family to get revenge for the way they treated him and his mom, it just happens that some random troublemaker pulls the trigger , spurred on by the Joker's words It's a domino effect, completely random True to the essence of this character that is the Joker, everything is chaos For the last sting of the film, we cut it in Arkham Asylum, a scene very reminiscent of his previous interviews with your social worker. We see him laughing at what he describes as an inside joke that is, I quote, "Between him and me." The scene then cuts to a young Bruce Wayne standing over the bodies of his dead parents in an alleyway.
That's the "him" this joke is for. As for what the joke actually is, well, as I interpret it, it's that for a while it seemed like the two might have been related, only for it to be revealed that they weren't. But now the two will be forever entwined, because Joker was the reason Bruce lost his parents. It's a completely black irony. Arthur storms out of the room, leaving a trail of bloody footprints before being chased through the halls by an orderly. So that's crystal clear, right? Why would a movie like this need some kind of explanation?
I mean, sure, the stuff about his parents gets a little fuzzy in the middle, and you might miss the subtext that hehe loses any sense of identity, only to fill that void with the Joker persona, but the rest has a pretty logical flow, right? Well, not quite. You see, while a purely cursory reading of this movie absolutely works, it's also not likely to be one hundred percent correct. Our first indication that everything we're seeing on screen might not be exactly as it appears comes quite early in the movie. Arthur comes home, settles in for the night, and joins his mother for their usual late-night activity of watching Murray Franklin, except the movie later cuts to Arthur in the audience being soloed.
Murray to go on stage and tell his story Murray even says that if he had a son, he would want that son to be like Arthur Clearly this is not a flashback to anything that happened before It's a fantasy sequence that was blended seamlessly with the rest of the narrative. And that's just the first example of this happening. When he's fired from his job as a clown, the scene then cuts to Arthur in an alleyway, aggressively stomping on a body, before cutting back to The Smiling Face. from Arthur. He is fantasizing about killing his boss at the moment.
But does he really do it? No, there's no sign of him actually doing anything like that over the course of the movie. These scenes establish exactly what we predicted in our earlier "Joker"
theory: that, true to the spirit of its King of Comedy predecessor, this film mixes hallucination, delusion, fantasy, and reality without indicating what's really what. But perhaps the biggest example and obvious of this blurred line between reality and fantasy comes in the form of Sophie, the neighbor Arthur has a crush on and eventually pursues a romantic relationship with. Their first interactions are incredibly awkward. She tries to make small talk in the elevator with him, and Arthur can barely respond, only responding minutes later in a very socially inappropriate way.
He follows her to her work, and at her place. scared, she's thrilled about it. They eventually go on a series of seemingly normal dates, with the awkwardness between the two of them completely gone. , enters his apartment without a key for support. But when Sophie walks into the room, she's terrified. She doesn't identify him as Arthur, or as the man she's been. dating. Instead, he is the guy from across the hall. Finally, that's when the curtain opens. We get brief glimpses of the earlier scenes of their relationship, but this time, Sophie is no longer on the scene.
Their entire relationship was a fabrication. , an elaborate series of fantasies that take place inside Arthur's head. It helps explain how Arthur went from social loner to ladies' man seemingly overnight. If all of this was a lie, literally anything in the movie could be. So how can you tell what's what? Well, it looks like there are some definite clues, the first being Sophie herself. When Arthur and Sophie visit her mother in the hospital, there is a very clear and direct moment where she leaves the room just before her failed comedy routine plays. on The Murray Franklin Show That seems to suggest that such a moment is really happening.
It's a cinematographic trick that tells us that the fantasy element, Sophie, has left the room, leaving only Arthur and the reality of the situation: his clip, playing on Murray Franklin. Another clue is the behavior of the people around Arthur. in a given scene Watch his reactions, or lack thereof, in relation to his behavior Again, this is a movie convention that is set with the first fantasy scene of the movie: Him in the audience for Murray's Show Before this clip From the trailers, which I obviously can't show you because the movie is so new, Arthur's behavior is inappropriate for the scenario of being in the audience of a TV show.
That's why he's been singled out from the rest of the crowd. And, yet as uncomfortably disruptive as he is, no one around him reacts negatively. Everyone is neutral to positive. And then, in all these fantasy sequences, he's embraced by everyone. Two of the people Murray loves, Sophie In his fantasies, he's the hero. The mother in the subway car, protecting her son in the trailers? Absolutely real. She was freaked out by him. Her failed stand-up routine of his? Real, but we hear the audience reaction is actually fake. Which is why, when we see this clip again, only on the Murray Franklin Show, the audience is silent.
They are not laughing. What he was perceiving at that moment on stage is not what was actually happening? Him at Pogo's comedy club, watching another comedian perform? False We know this because he laughs in all the wrong places during the routine. He laughs in the middle of jokes instead of at the end, but no one in the audience around him reacts to the disruption he's causing Those Subway Murders car? Yes, they are real. But now take a closer look at the conversations you have with his social worker. Many of the lines Arthur says get no reaction from her, particularly this one about her never listening: “You don't listen, do you?” Like him fantasizing about killing her boss, these scenes blend reality and fantasy. fancy.
He imagines what he would say to him, he has the conversation on his mind, but he doesn't always say those words out loud. I mean, we've all been there. , good? Which certainly brings us to the most important question of all. The end Does he really follow Murray Franklin? Does he really kill his hero? Does he really become the face of a revolution? In my opinion, the answer is yes and no. It honestly depends on how you want to interpret the final scene of him in Arkham Asylum Based on the cinematic clues we discussed – the reactions of others around him, the news coverage prompting the Murray Incident – yes, it appears to be real.
The fact that there is a scene included in the film showing Murray's broadcast mixed with other real-world broadcasts from a neutral third-party perspective seems to suggest that this was something real. That moment reads to me as: This horrible act of violence that Happens Live on TV is just one of thousands of moments that happen on TV and is simply overlooked and ignored, mixed in with all the noise that happens around us all the time. If you include a statement scene like that, it's probably not going to get mixed up with a fantasy sequence, is it? However, it can be argued that most of this movie is not real The turning point actually comes halfway through the movie Arthur, during a
meetingwith his social worker, is informed that this will be his last The scene ends with him asking where he can get his medicine The implication is that he won't be able to And without his medicine, wouldn't he know?
From then on, we get some of the most incredible parts of the story: His stand-up routine appearing on TV, being a guest on the Murray Show, easily sneaking out of the movie premiere to corner Thomas Wayne at the bathroom, being rescued from a police patrol, surviving an accident that was fatal to everyone else in the car, and then being hailed as a figurehead for this powerful rebellion. He becomes more eloquent, more confident, more motivated to action, more assertive. He directly tells other characters that he is no longer taking his medication and, as a result, he feels better.
All these scenes could be fabricated ns, caused by his mental disorder not treated by him, I mean, watch the movie again and look at the newspaper headlines Kill the rich? Don't get me wrong, click bait headlines are commonplace these days. But do you really think newspapers will print that in big, bold type on their front page? Well, yeah, maybe. But still, how about Joker's entry on The Murray Show? This is a man who could barely get through a curtain when he was practicing for the time being at his house, but now he's running around seamlessly, kissing other people on the show without any consequence.
Even the way Murray speaks as he interviews Joker is reminiscent of the forced way he addressed Arthur in the film's first fantasy sequence. to get on your soapbox and say the things you fantasize about saying. Speaking of side scenes, consider that final moment before the credits. We're in Arkham Asylum, in an interview that directly parallels all the scenes with the social worker from the beginning of the film We have similar camera frames, a very similar actress, not only in terms of race and gender, but in terms of clothing, hairstyle and way of speaking, Is it just a cinematographic shorthand to show the absurd repetition of her life? , Or was it to suggest that all those earlier scenes were just him in this room?
Is the personal joke that Arthur finds so funny just a fantasy concocted during his therapy session? The exact fantasy we've just seen play out in extreme detail inside his own head. A prank in which he takes inconsequential revenge on literally everyone who has ever wronged him. Bullies, co-workers, moms, TV hosts, and ultimately, you end up on top. I don't know if there is a correct answer here. Don't get me wrong, just like "Inception" has a definitive answer if you look closely enough, "Joker" may also have a definitive answer Having only seen the movie twice, and without the ability to go frame by frame, it's hard. for me to know and get the necessary details.
But you can bet I'll watch it a few more times to come to a conclusion. What I appreciate most about the movie is how he manages to thread the needle. It gives you a backstory for this iconic character who never had one, but then rips it out and makes you question literally everything you just saw. True to the spirit of the Joker. , the origin of the character in this movie is also multiple choice "If I'm going to have a past, I'd rather be multiple choice." But hey, (BREEDING CONFIRMED?!?! Nah, it's actually just a meme because it felt similar) that's just a
theoryWow, that sounds super complicated No, no, no, that'll be great!
The internet will debate it for YEARS. Can we at least add a Batman credit card or something? I'm not even going to consider that idea with an answer. Well, it's just that if nobody knows what's real and what's not, how are we supposed to tie this together with Wonder Woman and Aquaman and all those other lovely little rascals? In fact, it will be very easy! Hardly an inconvenience! What... what... what did you say? I said... I said I have a script for you, called "Joker." But... what happened to the other guy? What... what other guy? Wait…was…was that all a hallucination too? *TRIPPLE TWIST* Probably, I mean, your desk is covered in weird pills (laughs) Oh yeah, it certainly is So do you mind if I make it to my speech?
I'm very excited about this movie. Oh yeah, let's do that, but let's do it in our regular office, okay? You can get there by clicking on the box on the screen. There are a ton of videos on the Screen Rant YouTube channel. Who are they talking to and what is a Screen Rant channel? Did you take one of your desk pills again? Oooh, so I did Whoops! Whoopsie But seriously, Screen Rant is full of hundreds of Pitch Meetings just like this. I guarantee you'll end up watching, like, at least ten in a row, I certainly did. (laughs) We are addictive!
Like these pills! :D
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