Latest Batman 3 casting rumor: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Riddler?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's reps have already denied that he's playing the Riddler in Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie. But the rumors persist. And they're making some people ask: Does Batman 3 even need a villain at all?

The JGL rumor has gotten enough currency that the above Photochop of him as the Riddler (via the Playlist) has been making the rounds. And on the face of it, there does seem to be some plausibility: Gordon-Levitt is co-starring in Nolan's Inception, and Nolan loves to reuse actors. Sure, Gordon-Levitt's reps have already denied the rumor, but people are saying that's just because it's too early to confirm it — the script's still being written, the movie's not out until 2012, yadda yadda. It's true that unlike the "Cher as Catwoman" thing, this rumor at least has some possibility of being true.

But this newest villain rumor has the Guardian asking a fair question: Why does Batman 3 even need a villain in the first place?

With Batman having ended the last movie on the run from the authorities and with his reputation in tatters with the Gotham people, it's difficult to see how there is room for a new villain. If Ledger had lived, the new film might have worked best as part two of The Dark Knight, with the pair battling it out once again – Nolan's earlier film never felt quite finished to me, in any case. However, the film-maker has wisely ruled out recasting the role, and it would be a brave man who set out to shoot a comic book movie without some sort of pantomime bad guy.

It would be pretty fascinating if the third film was just the police hunting Batman, who's still trying to fight crime while staying free. But of course, you know there has to be some bigger threat that makes the cops turn to Batman for help one more time, in spite of his newfound infamy. In any case, let's hope whoever becomes the villain can match Heath Ledger in the "fascinating psychopath" stakes.