The Dark Knight Rises (c) Warner Bros. 2012

It only hit the web on Monday evening, yet the world is still talking about the brilliance of the third and final trailer for Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

On the evidence of the trailer alone, it seems that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were both mere foreplay for what will be Nolan’s final and most mindblowing moment in the Batman trilogy. But, what few people are discussing, probably because they’re still so focused on the trailer,  is that this will be Christian Bale’s last outing as The Caped Crusader. And given his and Nolan’s successful collaboration over the past few films, making Bale the first billion dollar Batman, it raises the question – is there anyone who can replace Christian Bale as The Dark Knight?

Bale was always the right choice to play Batman, a role he’d been in consideration for long before Batman Begins hit the cinema screen in 2005. His unforgettable portrayals of the psychotic murderer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and the haunted insomniac Trevor Reznik in The Machinist, clearly demonstrated Bale had the versatility to take on the complex dual persona of Bruce Wayne.

The Oscar-winning British actor has been nothing short of superb as Bruce Wayne/Batman, bringing an intensity and darkness that was much-needed for a superhero whose quest for justice is driven by the murder of his parents as a child.

Bale, alongside Christopher Nolan, has given the franchise the credibility films fans had long desired since Tim Burton stepped down from directing Batman movies.

Though The Dark Knight Rises is due to be the third and final Batman film, Bale may well call it a day, but there will no doubt be calls for another Caped Crusader movie, if the film turns out to be every bit as good as the trailer promises it to be. In this day and age, money talks.

And then there’s the internet rumours that Batman’s next appearance on celluloid will be in a movie version of the Justice League, something that will now be seen as even more of a good idea given the commercial success of The Avengers. But who could take over from Bale as Batman? And given what Nolan and Bale have achieved with the trilogy, could Batman ever be just a co-star? He’s too big for that now, surely?

The Dark Knight made over $1bn at the box office, and the latest outing looks set to break the £$1bn threshold, too, with the potential to go on to be the most financially successful film of all time. So, taking that into consideration, could you really relegate the  character of Batman to a supporting role? Having major superheroes such as Thor, Captain America and Iron Man alongside each other worked in Avengers Assemble, but none of the individual Marvel superhero films have generated near as much revenue or excitement as the Batman trilogy has – thanks largely to presence of Bale and the directing of Nolan. And with the Green Lantern failing with critics and at the box office, only Henry Cavill’s Superman in Man of Steel could potentially provide a decent co-star for Batman, at this stage. So, another solo outing for Batman may be the most likely outcome, but without Bale in the protagonist role, it just wouldn’t be the same.

If we’re going to go there, imagining who could possibly replace Bale, Brit born actor Charlie Hunnam has been doing sterling work in Sons of Anarchy, bringing a dark brooding intensity to his role as Jackson Teller. And Ryan Gosling has the ability to portray Batman in a different light. But even then, we’re struggling to feel entirely convinced that anyone has what it takes to fill Bale’s incredibly large Bat shoes.

What do you think? Can anyone ever replace Christian Bale as Batman? Share your thoughts and suggestions below.

And here’s the trailer, in case you missed it (highly unlikely, we know):