Could 'Batman 3’ Lose Christopher Nolan?

CAPTIONNot even a full year has passed since the worldwide release of "The Dark Knight," but that doesn't stop the rumor mill from churning like mad. Some of these reports are fun to read -- if only because of how surprising they are -- but others? Not so much.

Case in point is the latest rumor on the "Batman 3" front, which says that Christopher Nolan might not return for another installment. Batman-On-Film has heard from a trusted source that Nolan's attachment to a third outing is far from a sealed deal, and may in fact be a long shot.

The source cites the 2008 death of Heath Ledger as one of the driving factors in Nolan's potential departure from the franchise. Not only was the Joker supposed to return for a third "Batman," according to the report, but Ledger's passing "rocked Mr. Nolan hard" and convinced the director that "['The Dark Knight'] was going to be it for him and Batman on film."

But even were Nolan to direct the untitled "Batman" sequel, the source says the film wouldn't be in theaters until at least 2012, adding: "And that is only an early estimate at best right now. They are even saying it might not be until 2013."

Clearly -- and even as the typically trustworthy Batman-On-Film points out -- this rumor shouldn't be taken as fact. Until an official announcement is made one way or the other, there's no reason to assume that Nolan's departure is a certainty. On the other hand, there is likewise no reason to assume that his return is a certainty.

Given the critical and commercial success of "The Dark Knight," it's a foregone conclusion that Nolan's departure from the series would be disappointing to many. Still, it's hard to deny that Nolan wouldn't be going out on the top of his game -- after the disaster that was "Batman and Robin" in the late '90s, did you ever imagine that you'd witness a "Batman" film that earned an Academy Award for an actor's performance?

So, what's our official stance? Well, for now, we're not getting our capes in a bunch until we hear more. Even if the worst case scenario pans out, the Splash Page crew would offer a salute, best wishes and our price of admission to Mr. Nolan and his future endeavors. After all, the guy has already given the "Batman" movie universe more gravitas than we'd ever dreamed possible -- if he's ready to tap out, he's certainly earned the right.

Do you think Christopher Nolan will return for a third "Batman"? Would you begrudge him if he chose to pass on the film? Who would you pick as his replacement?