Joaquin Phoenix isn't impressed with your Joker theories
Warning: if you've not seen Joker yet, this is definitely, definitely going to give away fairly large wedges of the plot and its conclusion, so you might want to give it a miss.
Todd Phillips' Joker is starting to look like a modern Twin Peaks, with fans picking over its bones to find hidden meanings and clues to the 'true' interpretation of what exactly happened to Arthur Fleck. Or, a latter-day final series of Lost, depending on how much patience you have with it.
But which fan theories are actually worth getting lost in? Well, wonder no more, because Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix have picked apart the most popular musings and revealed how close to the truth they are.
Joker isn't actually about the Joker at all
The most widespread theory is that Fleck isn't the Joker of Batman lore – that's why there's no definite article in the film's title. He's the spark that sets off Gotham's powder keg, and it's only later that someone else adds the definite article and becomes the supervillain we know and love to hate.
"Maybe Joaquin’s character inspired the Joker," Phillips told the LA Times. "You don't really know. His last line in the movie is, 'You wouldn't get it.' There's a lot going on in there that’s interesting."
The last laugh
That last scene in Arkham Asylum has inspired its own genre of theorising, particularly the way that Fleck laughs during flashbacks to the riots and Bruce Wayne's parents being shot. One idea is that he's actually properly tickled for the first time.
"He's made up this character in his head named Arthur Fleck who has never had a happy moment in his whole entire life and to Joker that's funny," explained u/MiKEYSANZ. "He laughs because he's amused by f***ed up sh*t and when the therapist asks him what he's laughing about he says she wouldn't get it because she's a normal person who doesn't find pain and misery amusing. A person who has never been happy for even a second is something that is funny and amusing to The Joker."
Phillips has been a little vague about what that final scene actually means, but he's been clear that it's a Very Important Moment.
"That laugh in that scene is really the only time he laughs genuinely," Phillips said to the LA Times. "There is the laugh from Arthur’s affliction and then there is his fake laugh when he’s trying to be 'one of the people', which is my favourite laugh. But at the end, when he's in the room at Arkham State Hospital, that's his only genuine laugh in the movie."
Hold tight, this one goes deep. Some fans have noticed that at three points in the film, a clock on screen reads 11:11. There's one visible during the therapy session toward the start of the film, then one in the very brief flashback to Fleck banging his head on the asylum door, then on the clock Fleck punches off the wall in the clowns' dressing room. Surely – surely – that can't be a coincidence, fans have reasoned.
Some suggested that 11:11 is a powerful number related to the 'awakening of the soul', though quite where they pulled that from is anyone's guess.
"It’s a coincidence," he told CinemaBlend. "No, I mean, I don't know. I think it’s a coincidence."
Phoenix was similarly unswayed, comparing the idea to the 1969 conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney died in a car crash on the M1 in 1966, was replaced by a Scottish lookalike called William Campbell, and was remembered by John, George and Ringo via clues in their records.
"Paul is dead. Paul is dead. The Beatles," he said. "What I'm saying is, I do know that there are some of those things that we put in, whatever the fuck you call them… yeah. I mean, I think some of them you might read into. That's the 'Paul is Dead' joke that I'm making. But no, 11:11 didn’t mean anything to me personally."
Phillips eventually stamped all over any hopes that there might be more to find in Joker. "I don't do Easter eggs," he told Movieweb. "Any Easter eggs anybody finds is a mistake. I don't understand."