I don't particularly care for Tim Burton's original 1989 Batman, but his sequel Batman Returns is just a perfect storm of sorts. Burton's dark gothicism mixed with the extravagance of his Gotham City meets Metropolis, a soundbite-ready screenplay and one of the greatest acting performances of the '90s, which continues to be the best performance in a superhero movie, too. As great as Ledger is, he can't top Michelle Pfeiffer's stunning turn as Catwoman.
The Dark Knight is a very good movie. Great, even. It is not, however, very great. I think the first two acts are very great though (still following me?) There's some amazing stuff going on there, a lot of it to do with Ledger's Joker, Eckhart's Harvey Dent and Michael Caine's butler Alfred. The problems start after my favourite scene (that'd be the hospital sequence between Ledger and Eckhart). Unfortunately from that stage it feels awkward and oddly directed. As if Nolan - and his co-screenwriter brother - didn't quite know how to finish the movie, so they threw together this quite out of the blue scenario with the ferries that feels disconnected to the rest of the movie. And... I don't know. I can't really explain it, actually. Something just didn't feel right. Plus, the hostage situation has been done before - most recently Spike Lee's Inside Man - so if anybody tells you how brilliant it was let them know, okay?
And then there's the issue of Two Face, which is all very hard to discuss without spoilers so pardon me for being incredibly vague, but when Harvey Dent "becomes" Two Face (that's no spoiler, folks) it doesn't actually feel authentic because I don't think they worked the multiple personality thing enough. His loss doesn't feel strong enough to turn him into a psychopath (uuugh, the relationship between Dent and another pivotal character wasn't developed enough, if you've seen the movie I'm sure you can understand who I mean). And then suddenly it's over with a short (very short) series of scenes that, again, feel disconnected from the rest of the movie.
Again, something just didn't quite feel right. Perhaps there just weren't enough penguins?
Batman Returns - A-
Batman Forever - B-
Batman & Robin - D-
Batman Begins - B
The Dark Knight - B+