This article contains The Batman spoilers.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman does not have a post-credits scene—technically speaking. When the credits roll on the final shot of a sad yet determined Batman riding into Gotham’s twilight, the show is over and you’re free to leave your seat (or hit “stop” if you’re now watching it at home courtesy of HBO Max). Unlike most modern superhero movies, there is no teaser or easter egg after the credits begin.
In theory, this is refreshing. It’s been nearly 10 years since Christopher Nolan allegedly told Zack Snyder not to include a post-credits scene in Man of Steel because “a real movie wouldn’t do that.” And while that was the opinion then, there sure as hell were post-credits scenes in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s become expected as the price of doing business.
Hence why it should be refreshing that The Batman doesn’t feel the need to tack on a glorified teaser—which is to say an advertisement—for the next film or two in its interconnected series. Because while post-credits scenes were once a novelty mostly reserved as little winks to the audience in the occasional Disney film or comedy—and then briefly exhilarating after Samuel L. Jackson showed up in Iron Man circa 2008 to ramble on about “the Avengers Initiative”—they’ve become pedestrian today. So much so that by the time you get to last year’s Shang-Chi, it’s mostly about a bunch of digital floating heads being pasted in to say, “Hey you’re part of this endless multi-headed corporate hydra too!” After a while, it wears thin.
In function and intent, post-credits scenes are a distraction: a way to shift audiences’ attention from the movie they just watched to speculating on the products that are to come. Instead of discussing the qualities or lack thereof in Morbius, you’re (hopefully) discussing how the Vulture wound up in this universe and how that will tie into what is happening in Venom 3. There’s a certain cynicism about these scenes as a storytelling device, and when a movie is good enough to stand on its own without them, we’re all the better for it.
So it is kind of nice that The Batman didn’t include a scene after the credits started… even if there was still a functional post-credits scene in the movie before that.
The Joker and The Batman
While there is again technically no post-credits scene in The Batman, this is because there’s a scene that functionally does all the things mentioned above in the movie. It just has the bad grace to awkwardly shoe-horn itself into the movie’s coda.
During The Batman’s denouement, between Robert Pattinson’s vigilante realizing he can be more than just “Vengeance,” and him having a wistful farewell to Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle, there is a wholly obligatory scene in which we cut to Arkham Asylum. There a forlorn Riddler (Paul Dano) is being comforted by the lunatic down the hall, an unnamed patient with green hair, white skin, and ghastly facial scars. He is played by Barry Keoghan and is obviously the Joker.
Matt Reeves has confirmed this many times since, including to us. Back in March he told Den of Geek, “The idea is that what you’re seeing is a pre-Joker, Joker.” The writer-director went on to say he took inspiration from Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs (1928), where Veidt played a tragic figure who could physically never stop smiling. Reeves also wanted to emulate the facial disfigurement of Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant Man.
All of which are intriguing ways to reimagine a character who’s become one of the most saturated supervillains in movie history. However, that is not how the scene plays out. It plays out like an arbitrary teaser; an easter egg; a post-credits scene in all but name designed to make folks chatter about the prospect of seeing Joker in the next Batman movie, as opposed to savoring the gothic symphony Reeves has just played out over the last three hours.
The sequence cannot help but feel like a studio note, which is a shame. Ironically, Warner Bros. and Reeves released a deleted scene that also features Keoghan’s “pre-Joker” that gets far closer to what Reeves described to us. If you have not seen it, check it out here. It features Pattinson’s Batman visiting the Joker while he’s in Arkham to ask for advice on the Riddler case. It obviously owes more than a little to The Silence of the Lambs (1991), but it’s a sequence which both introduced this universe’s version of Joker and raised a lot of questions about why he is scarred and acts the way he does.
The scene was ultimately cut because it likely dragged the pacing down—it’s a bleak character beat that would’ve occurred while the movie was still in its lengthy first act. The same can probably be said, only more so, about the Joker scene that is still in the finished film: it’s superfluous and disrupts the flow of the movie. However, it wasn’t left in because it was vital; it was left in because it’s the easter egg to get fans’ minds racing about the next movie and all the speculation and insta-hype that invites.
A movie as good as The Batman doesn’t need a commercial break for upcoming attractions. It’s a magnificent superhero movie, standing tall even when it has minor stumbles like this at the finish line.
The Batman is streaming on HBO Max now.