I don’t know why really but I always thought to have written a review on BB and just found out by searching my blog that I actually didn’t. So first of all I loved the first Batman by Tim Burton. It’s as good as a first Batman could have been, given that Superman already made it to the big screen in 1978.
But Nolan’s Batman is quite different. Not necessarily darker, but more down to earth. Of course he’s expanding on the backstory that was never mentioned in Burton’s movie (except for Wayne’s parents being killed of course) and add’s more reasons to the story for Wayne to decide to become Batman. I don’t know if that was needed but it works well. Of course you have to wait a while for the first hero moment in BB and even when it comes it’s messy. Just like in the “Year One”-Arc by Frank Miller which seems to set the tone Nolan went for.
I always liked Michael Keaton as Batman because you really wouldn’t suspect him to be Batman. With Bale, well, not so much. He has crazy eyes even without the mask and is known for his stoic acting, so there is very little difference in his portrayal of Bruce and Batman apart from the voice. Burton’s Batman is larger than life. Nolan’s Batman is as large as the setting he’s put in but still tries to be authentic. Which seems odd, he still is a superhero.
So I think BB is a great movie with a great story starting of a great trilogy but if it would have been the first Batman movie ever I guess it wouldn’t have been that successful. You kind of need Burton’s strange but colourful (not necessarily meant literally) backdrop to appreciate the lack of color, fanciness and superheroism in Batman Begins. If you want to establish Batman as the superhero he was for many years before Year One and The Dark Knight, you better start with the Burton movies. And perhaps the third one but the Clooney is to be ignored at all cost.