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The next Batman villain: 5 theories

It's not the Riddler, says Christopher Nolan of the antagonist in his second Batman sequel, tentatively titled "The Dark Knight Rises." Who will it be then?

Christopher Nolan, the famously secretive director of The Dark Knight, has finally given fans a few scraps of information about the next movie in his Batman series. The film will be titled The Dark Knight Rises, and will be released in the summer of 2012. Nolan isn't offering any details on the plot, although he did tell the Los Angeles Times that the film's villain would not be the Riddler, the character played by Frank Gorshin in the campy 1960s TV series. He had already ruled out Mr. Freeze and the Penguin. So which of Batman's many nemeses will the director choose? Here are five theories:

CatwomanEarlier this week, rumors were swirling that Nolan was auditioning actresses for a lead role in the movie. Speculation swiftly followed that Batman's rival this time might be Catwoman, the villain memorably played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton's Batman Returns. "It's incredibly thin grounds to base a rumor on," says Logan Westbrook at Escapist, but "it's not hard to see how Catwoman might fit into the movie." A sexy criminal might seem "awfully appealing" to the Batman left alone at the end of The Dark Knight.

Killer CrocAnother rumor goes that Nolan will film The Dark Knight Rises in Louisiana early next year. The conventional wisdom says that's because of the state's generous tax breaks, but it could be because "a Killer Croc might be at home in Louisiana swamps," says Russ Fischer at Slash Film. The character — a deformed wrestler with "crocodilian abilities" — has never appeared in the Batman movies, but is a favorite of comic book fans. I don't think so, says Mof Gimmers at HecklerSpray. Mainly because Killer Croc is a horrible name for a villain.

Two-Face (again)Two-Face, aka Harvey Dent, the badly-burned district attorney played by Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight, could be resurrected for the sequel, says Josh Wigler at MTV.com. The "rises" in the title could refer to Dent's return from the grave. It would need to be done "tastefully and respectfully," of course, but Eckhart has "expressed a willingness to return." I don't know, says Geoff Boucher at the Los Angeles Times. "Dent was plainly dead at the end of the last film," and Nolan doesn't go in for "super-science."  

Hugo Strange"I'm hoping now for Hugo Strange," says the Los Angeles Times' Geoff Boucher, who elicited the information about the Riddler from Nolan in the first place. It could be a perfect role for Tom Hardy, says Soraya Roberts at the New York Daily News, who appeared in Nolan's recent thriller Inception and will co-star in this movie. This "maniacal shades-wearing scientist who turns his patients into monsters" is certainly a possibility.

A whole gang of villainsLet me put on a "fantasy producer's hat," says Tom Pinchuk at Screened, and speculate that they might have Batman face a "whole gang of villains" in this sequel. I'm talking about a "half-dozen second stringers like Deadshot, Firefly, Black Mask, the KGBeast, and the Ventriloquist." That would require too much character setup, you say? "You don't need much explaining" if they "just present these bad guys as is," like they did with the Joker in the last movie.

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