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Joker's Opening Scene May Be Hiding A Huge Batman Easter Egg

Joker director Todd Phillips may be far sneakier than even we would have thought.

The Film Easter Eggs Twitter account recently posted an analysis of an image from the flick's opening scene that, if intentional, is one of the more clever movie Easter eggs we've ever seen — and an overt reference to the Joker's traditional arch-nemesis, Batman. Please be advised that spoilers for Joker follow.

Before we dig in to the image in question, it should be noted that although the film is one hundred percent the story of troubled comedian Arthur Fleck's (Joaquin Phoenix) transformation into the Clown Prince of Crime, Bruce Wayne does indeed appear in Joker. He's not wearing a cape and cowl while kicking Arthur's ass, however, because he's somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years old.

Bruce's father Thomas Wayne, however, serves as one of the movie's primary antagonists. Joker finds the billionaire Bat-dad in the thick of Gotham City's mayoral race, and one of the film's key moments comes when Arthur — having found an old letter to Wayne from his highly unstable mother, Penny — confronts the candidate with the accusation that he is Wayne's son, born out of wedlock as the result of a long-ago fling.

Near the film's end, Wayne and his wife Martha suffer their canonical fate, gunned down in Crime Alley by one of Arthur's masked followers. Of course, it's implied that young Bruce will be driven batty, so to speak, as a result — but many fans have advanced the notion, due to the age difference between Arthur and Bruce, that Arthur may not be the actual Joker. Instead, he could merely be the inspiration for the man who will one day become Batman's nemesis, an idea which Phillips has said may very well be true.

Even if it is, though, it's plain that Arthur is pretty much directly responsible for setting the boy on his caped crusading path — and with that in mind, this image is likely to send chills down your spine.

Don't see it? Here's the same image with the contrast tweaked, then slightly enlarged, then helpfully outlined for reference:

Phillips has to have done this on purpose, right? Once you know it's there, you can't unsee it — but as compelling as it is, there's at least an equal chance that the image's composition was indeed a happy accident.

Was the Batman Easter egg in Joker's opening scene intentional?

We only say this because, to hear Phillips tell it, there are exactly no Easter eggs to be found in Joker. Oh, sure, we've found plenty — but if you want to get technical about it, you could call them "homages" or "references," and not necessarily "Easter eggs." 

Speaking with Collider, Phillips and Phoenix were unequivocal on this point. "I don't do Easter eggs," he said. "Any Easter eggs anybody finds is a mistake. I don't understand." Phoenix then chimed in with, "You see what you want to see, you hear what you want to hear."

Now, we suppose it's possible that Phillips thought that he was being accused of hiding actual, brightly-colored eggs in his film, but if we're taking what he's saying at face value, then the composition of that shot was not a Batman Easter egg. Oh, it may have been a reference or an homage, possibly not even to Batman; for example, we were struck by how similar the shot's composition is to the famous artwork/optical illusion "All is Vanity," an image of a woman in a mirror which also doubles as a sinister-looking skull.

But as inclined as we are to give Phillips the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word, it seems to us that it's nearly impossible that this shot was an accident. Phillips was famously extremely deliberate in constructing every shot of Joker, and even if he meticulously planned the placement of every item in this shot with the intention of making it a reference to something else completely, we fail to see how on Earth the similarity to the Dark Knight's cowl could have simply escaped him.

It's also worth pointing out that if this would-be Easter egg is indeed a coincidence, it's not the only one to be found in Joker. It's been pointed out, for example, that the font in which the title of Murray Franklin's (Robert De Niro) talk show is rendered looks just a wee bit similar to that used in the classic Batman: The Animated Series.

Of course, Phillips did tell Collider that if there were any legitimate Easter eggs to be found in Joker, then they were probably the result of "the art department sneaking something in that would make [him] crazy if [he] knew about it." We could see that being true of something like a font choice, but when it comes to the meticulous composition of entire shots, that's on the director.

In any event, if this shot was meant to hide a Batman Easter egg, Phillips obviously isn't keen to say so. Phoenix, however, might have cleared matters up with one last comment during the pair's interview. "There's a Wonder Woman Easter egg in there," the star said, "but you probably didn't catch it."

Okay, yeah. One way or another, we're pretty sure these guys are screwing with us.