One of the most contentious elements of Joker — aside from the blatant influence of Martin Scorsese — is its treatment of women. For obvious reasons, it’s difficult to get into specifics without delving into spoilers. Let’s just say Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) perspective on the ladies in his life is just as skewed as, well, his perspective on everything else.
That’s what makes Sophie (Zazie Beetz) such an interesting character to consider. Her story is left purposefully ambiguous, allowing audiences to make up their own minds. But since Joker is succeeding well beyond anyone’s imagination, director Todd Phillips has gone on record to address the biggest question.
Spoilers for Joker ahead!
Sophie’s fate in ‘Joker’
Toward the end of Joker, viewers discover Arthur and Sophie’s romance is a figment of his imagination. Seeking solace after murdering his mother, Arthur visits Sophie’s apartment. But her fearful reaction reveals to him — and us — he’s actually been alone this whole time.
The film cuts to Arthur leaving her apartment but never reveals if he lashes out at Sophie. Joker cinematographer Lawrence Sher weighed in with his take. Now Phillips, speaking to Indiewire, settles the argument once and for all.
He doesn’t kill her, definitively. As the filmmaker and the writer, I am saying he doesn’t kill her. We like the idea that it’s almost like a litmus test for the audience to say, “how crazy is he?” Most people that I’ve spoken to think he didn’t kill her because they understand the idea that he only kills people that did him wrong. She had nothing to do with it. Most people understood that, even as a villain, he was living by a certain code. Of course he didn’t kill this woman down the hall.
This show of mercy fits with Arthur’s actions earlier in Joker, when he allows Gary (Leigh Gill) to leave his home unscathed. Still, in the context of the film, fans must decide for themselves how rational Arthur’s actions are. As Heath Ledger’s Joker famously said, “Does [Arthur] really look like a guy with a plan?”
The Zazie Beetz scene that almost made the film
In the final cut of Joker, moviegoers may not get any answers regarding Sophie’s fate. But that almost wasn’t the case. Phillips revealed that he cut a moment with the character that would have appeared during the film’s bloody climax.
During Arthur’s ill-fated interview with Murray (Robert De Niro), Joker originally cut to Sophie watching the show on television. However, Phillips ultimately felt this break from first-person perspective would betray the movie’s sole focus on Arthur’s journey. Had it remained, audiences would know she survived her earlier encounter with Arthur.
Phillips has previously said that he has no intention of releasing any deleted scenes for Joker. So fans are unlikely to ever see that moment for themselves. Still, its very existence makes one wonder what other questions this footage might have clarified.
Will fans get more Sophie in ‘Joker 2’?
That doesn’t mean Arthur — and Joker fans — have necessarily seen the last of Sophie. With every box office milestone, Joker 2 is becoming more likely to happen. If it does, then Phillips has the opportunity to bring Beetz back as well.
Following Arthur’s transformation, a reunion between him and his one-time neighbor could highlight how far gone he truly is. Would he spare her again the next time their paths cross? Does even a full-fledged Joker have a shred of humanity left beneath his make-up?
Perhaps Joker will remain a standalone character piece. But knowing Hollywood’s propensity to cash in, we doubt it. Hopefully, a sequel can build on the mysteries set up in the first film if it does come together.
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