Penguin Is Far More Important To The Batman Franchise Than Joker

Penguin Is Far More Important To The Batman Franchise Than Joker

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The Batman included a tease of the Joker in its ending, but Matt Reeves's Batman franchise is already placing far more emphasis on the Penguin.

The Penguin is a far more significant antagonist in The Batman franchise than the Joker. Matt Reeves's The Batman introduces Robert Pattinson's iteration of the Caped Crusader to audiences, with the movie also including numerous members of Batman's rogues' gallery. With Edward Nashton, known as the Riddler (Paul Dano), as its main villain, The Batman also includes Gotham City crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) in an antagonist role, along with Colin Farrell's portrayal of the Penguin, and even a brief cameo of the Joker (Barry Keoghan) in a jail cell near the end of the film.

While it would be easy to take the Joker's tease in The Batman as a sign that he will be the main villain of The Batman 2, Matt Reeves has made it clear that the Clown Prince of Crime will not be breaking out of prison to terrorize Gotham City in the franchise's immediate future. Moreover, it is quite apparent already that The Batman is placing far more focus on Farrell's Penguin, both from his role in the film itself and the future plans for the franchise. Considering the profile of villains that the Joker and the Penguin are, and where Reeves seems intent on taking The Batman franchise, the latter's greater prominence is arguably the right move.

The Joker Is Being Kept Hidden

The Joker’s brief cameo at the end of The Batman does not identify him by name or even give a clear look at his face behind the bars of his cell. Keoghan isn't playing the Joker in The Batman as the audience might know the character. From his shadowy appearance and sinister laugh while speaking to Nashton, the audience is left to infer that the unidentified figure in the cell is The Joker. Without the signature laughter, however, he could easily be mistaken for Two-Face from the burns on his face.

That The Batman omitted the scene of the Caped Crusader meeting the Joker in prison also shows the reduced emphasis that he is receiving under Reeves's direction. Even if the scene had been part of the movie, it teases the Joker’s eventual arrival in The Batman universe without making it imminent. Additionally, the camera work of the scene keeps the Joker’s face blurry and somewhat obscured while emphasizing the burns across much of his head. In all, everything about The Batman stresses that Reeves is in no rush to get to the Clown Prince of Crime.

The Batman & Its Spin-Offs Are Emphasizing The Penguin

Although Colin Farrell's role as Penguin in The Batman is peripheral, he still has a major role to play in the Dark Knight uncovering the mystery of the Riddler’s plot. The Penguin is even featured in the movie’s biggest action scene, the Batmobile car chase on a Gotham City freeway, and he remains free by the end of the movie. The Penguin already seems to command significant sway in Gotham's underworld, and his conflict with Batman is more open-ended compared to those with Falcone and the Riddler.

Reeves's future plans for The Batman franchise are also placing the Penguin in a continued central role in the HBO Max Penguin spin-off series, set a month after the ending of The Batman. Reeves seems intent on using the Penguin series to directly build upon the momentum of The Batman’s ending, with its role as the very next chapter of The Batman franchise saying a lot about how Reeves aims to use Batman's villains to build out his universe. Just as importantly, the kind of Batman franchise Reeves is building is one in which the Penguin is better equipped than the Joker to be a prominent antagonist from the start.


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Why The Batman Needs The Penguin More (Right Now) Than The Joker

As Batman’s arch-enemy, the Joker has been a consistent presence in the Dark Knight’s theatrical films, appearing in six movies alongside Batman since 1966’s Batman: The Movie. The Penguin, by contrast, has only been in three, including The Batman, and Reeves steering more in his direction is effectively an admission of the Joker problem that Batman movies tend to run into. Specifically, how easy it is for Joker as Batman's defining villain to become the center of attention as soon as he shows up. The Penguin, on the other hand, does not tend to have the same effect.

With The Riddler, Carmine Falcone, and The Penguin as the villains of The Batman (along with an anti-heroine role for Zoe Kravitz's Catwoman), Reeves is clearly aware that a little Joker goes a long way with Keoghan's brief cameo in the film. That obviously does not preclude the eventual arrival of the Joker in a more significant capacity, but it does show that Reeves does not want him to overshadow The Batman franchise, even inadvertently. There is also the need to differentiate Keoghan's version of the Joker from past portrayals of the character, and that is something Keoghan and Reeves wisely seem to want to take their time with.

Additionally, the Penguin's greater use fixes a Batman villain problem. With the emphasis on detective work and organized crime which Reeves has established from the very beginning ofThe Batman, the place in Gotham’s criminal underbelly makes him a readily usable antagonist. The Joker is a wild card Batman villain thanks to his unpredictability, even when allied with other criminals. Any plot he hatches inevitably throws even Gotham's underworld into a frenzy, as he famously does in The Dark Knight. With Reeves establishing a crime-drama detective tone for The Batman universe, favoring an active crime boss like the Penguin is a genuinely helpful tool in that approach.

While the Joker has been shown as a criminal gang leader at times, he has seldom been the kind of mafioso villain in The Batman that Falcone and the Penguin embody. Although Reeves is devoting greater attention to the Penguin as The Batman universe begins to unfold, the tease of Barry Keoghan's Joker in The Batman suggests that he will eventually face Pattinson's Dark Knight. Still, The Batman franchise is enabling less frequently utilized Batman villains to challenge the Caped Crusader in the noir-style story Reeves has set up. The Penguin is a very welcome addition to the fold in that regard.

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