The Batman director Matt Reeves explains the Riddler's final scene with [SPOILER]
Warning: This article contains spoilers about The Batman, which opened in theaters Friday.
No, The Batman doesn't have any end-credit scenes like typical superhero movies. But it does conclude with a tantalizing scene, featuring Eternals star Barry Keoghan, that hints at one of several possible avenues a sequel could take.
Directed by Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes), the bleak Batman cinematic franchise reboot follows a younger version of the titular Dark Knight (Robert Pattinson) as he hunts down the Riddler (Paul Dano), a serial killer targeting Gotham City's corrupt politicians because he was inspired by Batman's vengeful mission. While Batman captures the puzzle-loving foe and foils his assassination attempt on the mayor-elect, he fails to stop him from flooding the already beleaguered city. In the aftermath, Batman realizes he needs to become a symbol of hope and not vengeance as he helps with the clean-up.
Unfortunately for him, there's already more trouble brewing in Gotham as the movie ends. Before the credits roll, The Batman returns to Arkham Asylum, where the Riddler has just befriended a cackling prisoner played by Keoghan. Even though Keoghan is simply credited as "Unseen Arkham Prisoner," what little we see of his face, which is shrouded in shadows, and what we hear of his frightening laughter, strongly suggests that he's the Joker. Jack Nicholson played the maniacal foe in 1989's Batman, and Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his turn as Joker in The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, Reeves isn't ready to confirm Keoghan is portraying the Clown Prince of Crime and wants to keep things vague for the time being.
"It's a version of this character that is not yet the character that we come to know," Reeves tells EW. "It is this sort of early iteration."
Furthermore, Reeves doesn't want audiences to walk away assuming the scene promises a Riddler and maybe-Joker team-up in a potential sequel. "The intention of the scene was never meant to be one of those classic superhero movies [moments that] you might have in the end titles where it's like, 'Oh, look here's the next character. This is what we're doing.' It isn't that at all," says Reeves about the fan-baity exchange. "I thought it was a great way to finish the Riddler story within this story. There's this great scene [in Arkham] between him and Batman that begins everything. But then I wanted to take his temperature again, as he saw that the grand plan that he had did not work. I wanted to see him devastated, and then I wanted the pleasure of seeing a cellmate saying, like, 'Hey, well, don't worry.' It was just the deliciousness, the idea that the darkness in the city never dies and that the hope always springs eternal for that kind of plan. And there was such a wonderful rapport between Barry and Paul in the way the scene plays out."
What's interesting is that Keoghan's Unseen Arkham Prisoner originally had a slightly bigger role in the story and appeared in an earlier scene.
"Because the movie is a serial killer story and I wanted Batman to be going down all these back alleys, I wanted him to turn to another serial killer in Arkham because he was so unsettled about why [the Riddler] would be writing him [and] he's trying to profile the character," says Reeves. "He meets this character who is the unseen prisoner. Over the course of the thing, you have a sinking suspicion about who this might be. It's a version of this character that is not yet the character we come to know."
Alas, Batman isn't too thrilled about the insight he receives from the prisoner, who points out some uncomfortable similarities between him and the Riddler. "Batman keeps resisting this idea. So that scene was always meant to be part of the psychological through-line of the story, [which] was that the Unseen Prisoner was this insidious voice in Batman's head that Batman is trying to resist that any of what he's saying could be true," says Reeves. "But by the end, it turns out it's all true."
Once Reeves got into the edit bay, his initial instinct was to cut Keoghan's scenes with Batman and Riddler. "When I took it out, the story functioned fine, but I felt that we were missing something," he says. "Part of what we were missing was, one, it was this last scene on Paul that I thought was so important for his character to complete his arc."
Reeves continues: "And there was a tone in it, which was kind of wicked fun, which I thought was missing in the movie, that I really wanted. But it actually did one more thing: [It] clarified the stakes of the movie. Because, at the end, [Zoë Kravitz's Selina Kyle] is talking about how this place is eventually going to kill [Batman]. When you took it out, you didn't have the immediate context of the fact that already something was brewing... Knowing that there's always trouble brewing is just one of the things that give the context for the story [that], we need Batman."
The director is already thinking of plans for Keoghan's deleted exchange with Batman. "I'm hoping we're going to do something with the scene. It'll definitely be seen in some form," says Reeves, who knows exactly which character Keoghan is supposed to be but is declining to confirm anything. "He's the Unseen Prisoner, but I don't want to answer it now because when you see the other scene, which we will eventually share, it'll become quite clear the intention. Now, it doesn't mean you see him clearly, but the way in which you see him, I think it's clearer than what's in the movie now."
The Batman is in theaters now.
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