Christian Bale’s comment opens the door for another ‘Batman’ movie

Christian Bale

may not be ready to hang up his Batman suit, after all. Time and again, the star of the Christopher Nolan-directed "Dark Knight" movies has said that the third installment of the Batman trilogy will be his last.

Fans have been having a hard time saying goodbye. "The Dark Knight Rises," out this summer, is said to be the last of the Bale-Nolan dynamic duo. And Bale has steadfastly given no reason for hope. In November, when the movie wrapped, he said, "Everything's finished. It's me and Chris (Nolan) -- that will be the end of that Batman era."

But maybe the Batman era will live on.

In an interview with Empire magazine, the actor leaves an opening, however small, that another movie could be in his future. He tells the publication, "My understanding is that this is the last one. I think it's appropriate, I think it's going out at the right time. But ... if Chris came to me with a script and said, 'You know what? There is another story' then I would love the challenge of making a fourth one work."

But in the same interview it doesn't sound like Nolan is exactly on board. He says, "What drew me to Batman in the first place was Bruce Wayne's story, and that he's a real character whose story begins in childhood. ... That, for me, became a three-part story. And obviously the third part becomes the ending of the guy's story."

But what if the guy's story is re-invented -- in, say, a Justice League movie? In the hit "The Avengers," Robert Downey Jr.'s "Ironman" served as the familiar character in Marvel's group movie. Perhaps Bale could be persuaded to bring his caped crusader to the DC Comics' book version of its team superhero project. The "Justice League" could include Bale's Batman, along with Superman, Green Lantern, and even Wonder Woman. At least, superfans of DC Comics can always hope.

And hope springs eternal -- searches on Yahoo! have surged for "Justice League Movie" with the success of "The Avengers."

Joss Whedon, who directed "The Avengers," was recently asked how to make a Justice League picture work —- something that has been discussed for years. Whedon joked, "Call me," adding, "It's enormously difficult to take very disparate characters and make them work. DC has a harder time of it than Marvel because their characters are from an old, bygone era where characters were bigger than we were. Marvel really cracked the code in terms of 'Oh, they're just like us.' Marvel really started with 'Iron Man.' I think you need to use that as your base."

Let's hope someone at Warner Bros. has the batphone on speed-dial.

Watch 'The Dark Knight Rises' Trailer: