"That aside, there is no denying he (Christian Bale) is a brilliant actor."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Not To Be Confused With
Batman Returns. Although he is returning to the big screen, technically this movie is about the beginnings of Batman.
Christian Bale .... Bruce Wayne/Batman
Michael Caine .... Alfred
Liam Neeson .... Henri Ducard
Katie Holmes .... Rachel Dawes
Gary Oldman .... Jim Gordon
Cillian Murphy .... Dr. Jonathan Crane
Tom Wilkinson .... Carmine Falcone
Rutger Hauer .... Earle
Ken Watanabe .... Ra's Al Ghul
Mark Boone Junior .... Flass
Linus Roache .... Thomas Wayne
Morgan Freeman .... Lucius Fox
Larry Holden .... Finch
Gerard Murphy .... Judge Faden
Colin McFarlane .... Loeb
Gus Lewis .... Bruce Wayne - age 8
Emma Lockhart .... Rachel Dawes - age 8
Taken from imdb.com
A new restart of the "Batman" franchise under the helm of "Memento" Director Chris Nolan and more in tone with the early "Batman: Year One" style comics. As a boy a young Bruce Wayne watched in horror as his billionaire parents were slain in front of his eyes, a trauma which led him to become obsessed with revenge but his chance is cruelly taken away from him by fate. After disappearing to the East where he seeks counsel with the dangerous but honorable ninja cult leader known as Ra's Al-Ghul, he returns to his now decaying Gotham City overrun by organised crime and dangerous individuals manipulating the system whilst the company he inherited is slowly being pulled out from under him. The discovery of a cave under his mansion, and a prototype armoured suit leads him to take on a new persona, one which will strike fear into the hearts of men who do wrong - he becomes, Batman. In the new guise, and with the help of rising cop Jim Gordon, Batman sets out to take down the various nefarious schemes in motion by individuals such as mafia don Falcone, the twisted doctor/drug dealer Jonathan 'The Scarecrow' Crane, and a mysterious third party that is quite familiar with Wayne and waiting to strike when the time is right.
I never knew the producers were planning a new Batman movie and suddenly there it was, Batman Begins. I always confused this with Batman Returns because in my mind the franchise was returning instead of beginning. The title merely refers to this movie showing the origins of Batman, thus the title. I have never seen this movie in the cinema before, not very interested and like I said, never knew there was one. I have the DVD in my house but never did watched it because the 1st 5 minutes was slow and dark and the rest I never bothered. TV has yet to show it. So interestingly I somehow managed to watch this movie sans the first 5 minutes in a hotel at Johor Bahru, because it was probably the most exciting thing being shown in TV that night. It was either Batman Begins or the same old MediaCorp family drama, so really, there wasn't any competition. Maybe it's a good thing I missed the 1st 5 minutes because that kinda broke through that psychological barrier I once had during my 1st viewing of this movie, that it was slow and dark. I began watching when Bruce Wayne was climbing some really cold looking huge mountains in broad daylight in search of Ra's Al Ghul. This was also the movie that reintroduce me to Christian Bale.
Reintroduce is not a wrong word to describe my feelings towards this talented actor whom I have failed to realise is no longer short, young and pre pubescant. He was in fact reportedly 6 foot 2 inches tall, all muscles and cut quite a dashing figure. I kept thinking of that kid from Empire of the Sun and I kinda forgotten about Little Women so it was quite a shock to see him ... well..all grown up and surprise surprise, older than myself. I don't know why that surprises me. Anyhow it is a great movie to get reacquinted with CB because he gave such an incredible performance although it didn't look like it at first. I think it is really because of a very good script that shifted the emphasis of Batman the superhero to Bruce Wayne the human being.
What I love about the first 2 Batman movies was that Gotham City looked so imaginatively dark and yet dreamy under Tim Burton's direction. Michael Keaton was surprisingly an interesting Batman and the villains were colourful as well as pitiful. I always ended up feeling sorry for Batman's nemesis, rather than feeling anything for Batman or Bruce Wayne himself. In fact the villains stole the thunder from Batman in all the movies, the good ones and the ones with that infamous nipples on the batsuit.
This movie is different. Make it very different. For one, it is all about Bruce Wayne. For once Bruce Wayne is not just the rich dude who dresses up as Batman but is a personality in itself. In fact Batman is Bruce Wayne, not two distinct characters but rather Bruce Wayne in disguise. You see Bruce's insecurity, fear, anger, uncertainties in Batman himself and I like the non-distinction because for once I feel for Bruce Wayne. We know his tragic story, how he lost his parents at a young age, how he grew into a rich playboy. This movie debunked mostly everything; that he wasn't cheeky, he pretended to be cheeky. He wasn't a playboy, he pretended to be one. In fact this Bruce Wayne had little or no social life, his night life is mainly about fighting crime, his day life is about improving his skills so that he can survive his night life. He wasn't invincible, he wasn't fearless, he too suffered bruises and he too needed to sleep until 3pm. Some reviewers call Batman a psychologically disturbed character. That to me was interesting because I never thought he was mentally unbalanced. But think about it; he has no super power, he is human, he wears a bat suit running around fighting crime ... one can't be mentally stable and reasonable to push oneself to do all he did. So maybe he is mentally unbalanced, maybe he had this suppressed anger and hatred that is checked only by his conscience and his beliefs in law and order. In short, he is not the Bruce Wayne I thought I knew. He hardly smiles in fact, always in deep thoughts, always serious and always keeping an eye out on how to save his beloved Gotham City.
In fact saving Gotham City was something he made a conscious choice to do, because his father loved Gotham and he believed in the goodness of men. His sifu, the man or rather men who trained him into a lean mean fighting machine had got the concept right; to fight crime to save humanity but they had got the execution wrong; they were the terrorrists and believed that pulling a Noah's Ark (as in wiping clean the face of Earth to start again) Gotham could be saved. Bruce naturally disagreed, had a major fallout and went home, after 7 long years of disappearance (in his quest to understand crime he himself became a criminal but not serious stuff) to don the Batman suit. How he created Batman was also interesting and I kept remembering the words that he wanted "something elemental, something terrifying". The fact that he chose the thing that he was most scared of, bats was interesting. He wanted to embrace fear to unleash fear and I find this concept very intriguing. The way the movie dealt with how he obtained the batsuit, the batmobile, the gadgets, batcave, etc were all believable and possible. By letting the viewers see Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, somehow Batman became more of a real possibility; that there could be one dude dressed like a bat helping the police to fight crime. I also like the fact that he has no super power, he is vulnerable and he had to depend on his agility and wits to save himself. And yet there are times he can't save himself and even Batman needed help.
The other characters surrounding Batman/Bruce Wayne are all as interesting as the man himself.
For one, we know Batman has a very faithful butler, Alfred. This Alfred is old of course but somehow different. The previous Alfred was caring but nothing more than the guy who pushes the batcave's buttons, so to speak. This Alfred is a commanding presence in itself. He has an opinion, and he is not afraid to let Bruce hear it. In fact Bruce listens to this Alfred. Not hard to see why. I see Alfred as the one who raised him and Alfred, although he calls Bruce Wayne Young Master Wayne, it was with love, affection and respect. Why Alfred stuck around was probably because old Master Wayne was a model employer. Even the way Bruce spoke to Alfred was not of indifference or disrespect or like master-servant; there was respect. Alfred was more than just to guide Bruce; he was often there to help solve his problems. I do find it quite funny to see an old man doing the action stuff, assisting the super hero in his quest to clean Gotham. Interestingly Alfred never questioned Bruce but did wondered about his motives. All of my favourite scenes involved the heated and sometimes moving interaction between Bruce Wayne and Alfred although my favourite had to be the one where Bruce, as Batman was seriously injured thanks to the hallucinagen and he was, I wouldn't say screaming but not quite whimpering with pain as he remembered the bats and the night his parents were murdered before his eyes and Alfred was silently driving the car back to Wayne Manor with Bruce at the back mumbling stuff and Alfred had these teary red eyes. The concern, the love, the hurt, the pain, everything was there.
Bruce was also very much guided by the inventor of this movie, the no nonsense and sometimes much too honest Lucius Fox, old Master Wayne's favourite employee I suppose since Lucious was very much involved in the desigining and creation of many stuff Batman will eventually use. The stuff interestingly were old stuff but unseen technology. They don't make Batman invincible but they do help in saving his neck couple of times. Lucius is also one of my favourite character in here and the way he talked to Bruce Wayne it was like a much older senior speaking to a junior and you can feel that Bruce is a bit wary of Lucius, afraid that Lucius may find out what he was doing at night. My favourite scene involving Lucius Fox had to be the spelunking scene, because it was way too funny for me to describe it. Just remember to check this scene out where Bruce explained why he needed to borrow what would eventually become the batsuit.
Another memorable character is Detective Gordon. Since I am not very familiar with the Batman series, I didn't know this character would become Batman's ally in fighting crime, who will become Commissioner Gordon, the man who flashes that bat sign into the dark sky I presume. He is supposed the be the only really honest cop in Gotham. Quite pitiful actually and I wonder how a clean cop like him can survive so long on his own. Anyway his relationship with Bruce Wayne went way back to his childhood but blink and you might miss this character. I like the interaction between the two, like whether Gordon should trust this weird guy in a rubber suit.
I even find the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his mentor, Henri Ducard who turned out to be the villain as rather fascinating. It was after all this mentor who taught Bruce, who trained him and guided him and yet different perspective and philosophy, different outlook, one very big climatic scene which is memorable and yet somehow sad. Not going to say much, but you have to watch it to know it.
The three characters that I didn't feel anything for were one, Rachel Dawes, the childhood friend and sweetheart of Bruce. For one, a miscast and secondly she really had very little to do except to be rescued. Not that she was supposed to be a weakling but her character was not properly fleshed out. And I hated the way how preachy she was and that as if she was doing something important by being the DA whilst Bruce, in her eyes a mere playboy was wasting his time and therefore useless. Her patronising tone wasn't nice either and I find her such an airhead sometimes for being so arrogant as to think she herself is doing something useful for Gotham and everybody else was either useless or brain dead. Nope, didn't like her at all. And the reason why she rejected Bruce Wayne in the end was both funny and stupid. Did she see Bruce enough to say that she didn't like his mask how and preferred who he was when for Heaven's sake, she last saw him when he was a moody young adult and before that, a young boy?
The other character that I was supposed to feel something for but did not was Bruce Wayne's father. It has to do with the weak characterisation but it is not important; just assume he was a great influence in Bruce's life even if very little is shown. I find the bats more better fleshed out that Mr Wayne himself! Let's not talk about Mrs Wayne. Just there to show her face then die. That was it. These two were the weakest link in this movie and the story.
Then there was the villain, not the ultimate villain but still a villain who called himself The Scarecrow (Dr Jonathan Crane). Manic, yes, cold, yes, mean, yes, evil, maybe but frankly no history, no background, no personality and totally not quite one dimensional but not quite 2 dimensional.
Whilst most of the characters make this movie a compelling watch, some scenes almost turned me off. For example, the earlier training scene. But they're rewarding in the sense that by not showing Batman too early into the movie, Batman retains its mysterious allure, that one feels this movie isn't really about Batman and the emphasis was more on Bruce Wayne's road to discovery of his true calling. Yeah, to be a super hero! Another scene almost had me switch the channel was the really really long scene of Batman rushing a drugged Rachel back to batcave. Supposedly she was losing her mind after being pumped on the face with those hallucinagens stuff but the way the whole rescue went, I was hoping she was losing her mind faster than was shown. It was such a draggy scene and it went on and on and on until the batmobile leaped into the cave. One word; boring. The final showdown between Henri Ducard and Batman was made tedious because it intercut with the scene where Gordon was driving the Batmobile whilst Batman was being punched by the ultimate villain. That whole Gordon driving Batmobile scene was tedious, long and at times I was thinking, when will it end?
There are times also this movie looks way too dark, it is hard to see the details. Some scenes if were brighter would be work of art, like Batman crouching on top of a building, wind blowing his cape as he sat in the rain, when he was climbing a building and he looked positively of power and determination. Be that as it may, what I like about certain details is the fact that none of the details look modern. I know this movie is made after the Burton movies and many years after, but it is consistent in the sense that some technology employed here are old school, muddy, first time stuff. Even the bat sign looked blurry, some gadgets looked elementary and could be and probably would be improved in later movies. We have explanations as to how the Bat mobile came about and it didn't look like those flashy bat mobiles. If you wondered how the cave came about, this movie provides a logical explanation. Of course the idea that Bruce himself does all the renovation is just a bit far fetch but then Bruce Wayne isn't like busy with work.
Anyway, apart from some not very good scenes that slows down the movie, sometimes I feel the realism of Gotham City itself turned me off. It reminded me of New York although I read Chicago was more like it. It looked dirty, dark, damp and depressing. There was no interesting Gotham-ish infrastructure that one could see in Tim Burton's versions and making it so reality based somehow killed some of the magic. It however lends credibility to the notion that there could be someone like Batman running around.
But how could that be isn't it? It is a superhero comics script and logic dictates no one dressed like that to do what he does at night. By grounding it in reality and by making it possible makes the entire premise more cartoonish in my opinion. It simply couldn't exist.
Putting that aside, the real reason or reasons why this movie is great is because of the performances. This is one of those few movies that are populated by character actors who are famous but not A-list famous and I was surprised to see so many old timers, faces we are all very familiar with but won't really run out to build a fansite for.
Morgan Freeman made acting so effortless and in here, though limited exposure he gave what I consider a flawless performance. His Lucius Fox can be quite sarcastic at times and he is certainly the comic factor not because he's cute or anything but because he delivers all his lines in such a no nonsense and yet slightly amused way, he made Bruce Wayne looked like a secretive little boy standing before his stern headmaster.
Michael Caine is another gem in here. At first I thought he was far too imposing, far too un-butlerlike to be the butler and sidekick, Alfred. But this Alfred is different; he is not just an observor, bystander or even a mere assistant; he is an assistant with an opinion to share, a role to play in the formation of Batman. He even helped order components that created the image of Batman and I am sure he runs the household as well as providing the essential family support system to Bruce Wayne. I love all the scenes with Michael Caine in it and he gave Alfred a rather harsh personality and yet sometimes, a certain tenderness that is at times moving and quite heart warming. I suspect Bruce Wayne did not tip over the mental case line because Alfred was there to make sure he didn't.
Gary Oldman was a shocker to me because I didn't know he was Gary Oldman and I did not recognise him. In fact I can never recognise this man and he looked so different from his Sirius Black look. Here he is so much slimmer, in fact tired, haggard, subdued and hopeless looking and his Detective Gordon looked so old and forlorn. In fact he looked like how Gordon would have looked I supposed, having to see corruption everywhere and am unable to fight it. He seemed resigned to the fact that Gotham was as morally corrupted as it was filled with criminals, even amongst the police. His role is limited but pivotal as he assisted Batman in a number of instances. But he also has the honour of being in one of those way too long scene, that was when he was driving the Batmobile. Other than that, it is a good surprise to see Gary Oldman playing a rather ordinary normal albeit sad tired old looking character. An excellent performance.
Cillian Murphy is a name I have never heard of. Also quite shocked to read that he actually auditioned for Batman, because quite frankly he had that kind of body frame that the batsuit would just easily slide on and slide off. He is that pint sized looking. But one thing he has above others that made him an effective and chilling villain is his cold cold eyes. His eyes is scary. He played his character in a manic way, in fact in a non-repentant way. He is one of those few Batman villains that didn't have a sad sob story to start with. However his performance is marred only by the fact that Jonathan Crane is a very poorly written character. Perhaps this is just an intro to this character and we may see more of him in later movies. Against the big guns, this actor gave what I would say a commendable performance.
Linus Roache is one actor that I can never forget his name but never quite remember his face because from my memory I can only remember him in the controversial movie, Priest where by the way he was excellent in it. In this movie I am sorry to say he was dead in every term of the word. His performance seems lifeless, deadpan, no range and boring. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read he was the actor from Priest because I expected better. And his accent seems strained, like too much effort. It is also because this character is poorly written. Flashback scenes do not really show the bond between Bruce and his father, we just have to assume. His worst scene was when he died. It was a total dud and almost comical. A very poor performance and that to me is shocking.
Tom Wilkinson plays the last of the old time gangster/criminal who did not resort to secret identities or who may have been disfigured in some ways. Oh yes, Batman movies were once populated with over the top villains with catchy names like the Riddler, the Joker, Catwoman ... this Carmine Falcone is supposed to be old school. He wasn't scary, wasn't evil, just a gangster and a criminal. An interesting performance.
Liam Neeson may in his later life be known as the Actor Who Gets Typecast As The Mentor. He seems to be playing these kind of roles an awful lot lately, from the ultimate Star Wars to Kingdom Of Heaven and now this, as Henri Ducard. He looks believable as a deadly assassin/terrorist/mentor. However his expression was the same throughout. Not one change. Anyway who cares? He's Liam Neeson! He can have the same worried expression for the entirety of his career and no one would complain because quite frankly, he is a charismatic actor and tall too. He looks like he can whack Batman without the help of gadgets.
Gus Lewis played the younger Bruce Wayne. Very decent looking boy, looked a bit like Christian Bale when he was younger, only less cynical and intense looking. Quite a lot of scenes and heavy drama too but not quite as effective. I suppose Bruce Wayne was very pampered when he was younger, after all only child of a very very rich man. He wanted to leave the theatre, parents immediately left. He seemed to have a carefree childhood and I suppose he is supposed to be boyishly giddy all the time until the day he witnessed his parents' death for which he blamed himself for it. From thereon he carried that guilt, that baggage and that hatred but sorry to say the boy in the few scenes of the aftermath did not show much of those qualities. He seemed rather the same. Of course when CB tookover there were these qualities. A poor performance.
Rutger Hauer was shocking too. I remember him in Ladyhawke and in here he looked so old. Then I remember; so many years have passed since Ladyhawke. His character is not a villain, just a greedy member of the board of Wayne Enterprise. A very good performance, when he got his comeuppance by the sarcastic Lucius Fox.
Soon to be Mrs Katie Holmes Cruise was probably the only major sore point in this otherwise almost perfectly cast movie. First of all, to have two brunettes or whatever colour hair together in one scene is undistinguishable and boring. Hair colour aside, she looks way too young to be a tough talking DA and she looks way too soft to be again, the tough talking DA. In fact her tough talking DA was through reputation only, not really seen onscreen where she spent the majority of time walking in and out of Bruce Wayne's life uttering those annoying "unlike you I have to work you know, like I am doing something very important whilst you are really useless" type of lines. Then she spent some more time being rescued, saved, running and in the end rejecting Bruce Wayne. Yes, her character is poorly written and worse still, poorly performed. There was no impact, no chemistry between the two and she shakes her head way too much. Sorry to say, it was the worst performance in this movie. I pity her though because this movie reminded me of TVB's Golden Faith, full of heavy weights and big brothers of great actors and here she was, a bit like Jessica Hester Hsuan and Anne Heung, a lot out of her league. I am a bit worried because I read she may be in the sequels. I hope not.
Last but not least, Christian Bale himself. I am not a Balehead, as his fans call themselves as such. A Balehead I am not. But I am fond of him. Fond in a very amusing way. I must narrate further.
You see, I always seem to forget he was in Little Women but I knew he was since I saw that movie gazillions of times. I didn't quite remember he was actually in Midsummer's Night Dream which I have watched and completely blocked him from my memory. I don't know why. Maybe Michelle Pfeiffer's awful performance was quite a trauma to my memory bank so I chose not to remember anybody in that movie except for super waif Calista Flockhart who ws quite good. I somehow could not remember the gentleman standing next to her that was CB himself. I remember watching Swing Kids but again memories of CB was blocked probably because he was blond and I couldn't remember him as a blond. I don't know why. I couldn't watch 5 minutes beyond Captain Correlli's Mandolin so I didn't know he was in that movie. Never watched his other more "exposed" movie so I never really knew he was actually you know, a man now. I do however forever remember him as that boy with the blank look in Empire Of The Sun. So basically my idea of CB was short, young, handsome young boy who can act very well and darn it, he waved to that kamikaze pilot! So imagine my shock when suddenly there he was him as Bruce Wayne, looking way beyond gorgeous and then as Batman, looking dignified even in that rather silly suit (I mean come on, dressed as a bat? That's silly right? Like Spiderman, Superman, but all these retained their dignity because these are serious super heroes so it's not funny to laugh at their costumes and by the way Spidey's costume has my vote as the best looking) and may I say, sexy AND dangerous. So yes I was shocked. So in between all those movies I have not watched, CB has grown up. But get this! GET THIS! He is OLDER than I am! That was SHOCKING! I remember reading amateur reviews of Empire Of The Sun at Amazon.com and some dude, in 2005 wrote "Christian Bale, that young actor looks set for a bright future". Dude, he's OLDER than me now! He's so grown up! What happened to the warped years? He was working steadily but never in the limelight. And some more shocker. Not only married BUT has a baby daughter! Ahhhh how time flies.
But you know, since Empire of the Sun which showcase his potential, zooming to this movie, I can see why his fans lovingly and proudly calls themselves Baleheads. I wouldn't mind being called a Balehead because this is one actor whose fan I am sure is very proud of. He not only takes his art very seriously (I saw the Machinist after Batman and all I can say is for his sheer effort and determination, he deserves an Oscar) to the point of obssessive, he takes on myrid of roles that most up and coming or already there actors may not take. His only flaw is he makes himself unavailable to the public so much so that no one knows his daughter's name. That is being way too secretive and private. I understand his detest for everything public and he gives me an impression that he loves the work but hates the promo he has to deal with which gives me an impression that he may not be as approachable in real life. In fact I don't think I dare to say hi to him and in a way his determination to stay away from the limelight can be quite put off-ish. Also he doesn't seem to care what others think of him and I guess that is why he is a better actor than most; he simply didn't care except to do what he likes and wants to do. That aside, there is no denying he is a brilliant actor, some say underrated actor but I would think he made himself too unavailable to the public, you can't blame us for underrating him. We simply do not know him enough to know how to rate him. I don't expect Tom Cruise but I expect Eric Bana/Hugh Jackman you know. He is of course a better actor than most of the names I just named.
Anyway, I do think he was an unusual choice for Batman because he wasn't that big a name BUT he is in the end the perfect choice as Bruce Wayne. I see this movie more about Bruce Wayne than Batman and I am very happy that it is as such. He makes Bruce Wayne interesting which is a rarity and he bridges the line between Bruce Wayne and Batman which the previous movies never done before. He gives these two characters personality, agendas, a past, a history, an outlook, basically making them more grounded, more real and more possible. Not just a comic super hero, but a possibility that such a person could exist. It is beyond comic books and that is not an easy feat. What more can I say that his fans didn't say in unison? Except maybe he looked and talked a lot like Michael Keaton? His mouth looked like Michael Keaton, in some scenes he sounded like Michael Keaton. Maybe he is doing a Keaton impersonation so as to provide a consistency, that perhaps his Bruce Wayne will grow older into Keaton's Bruce Wayne? I do not know. Whilst some did not like his voice as Batman, frankly I thought it was apt because you can't have Bruce Wayne sounding like Bruce Wayne. Everyone will know he's Bruce Wayne. Must change the voice a bit. My only complaint is Bruce Wayne seems like such a loner, no social life, no girlfriends, no life. Pretty sad actually.
This is one movie where you must sit down and watch in its entirety without any disturbance. Once you're disturbed, you may be more inclined to not continue watching. It is well worth the attention and it gives the Batman franchise a respectable new beginning. What is probably the main attraction of this movie is the performances which is one of the best for ensemble cast in recent memory, despite several hiccups and may I say, very addictive. I just had to stare at the screen as Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine moved in and out of the screen. A must not be missed movie and I am sure, once you have seen this, you will want to get the DVD for your private collection because a well acted movie certainly deserves a place in that DVD cabinet of yours.
Who is a better Batman?
Let's not talk about George Clooney or Val Kimmer who both had the honours of starring in very badly written Batman movies so really can't criticise them for those movies.
Let's talk about Michael Keaton and Christian Bale.
Personally, I like Batman 2 with Catwoman in it. But what about the man himself?
I really do not see any clashes. Christian Bale reminded me so much of a younger Michael Keaton, especially when he was in Batsuit. I believe he may have been trying to convey an image of a younger Michael Keaton albeit no curly hairs and much taller. But who is better if you insist?
In my opinion it depends if you see Bruce Wayne and Batman as seperate and distinct entities or as one. Tim Burton's movies clearly drew a line between these two and in that sense Michael Keaton could be said to be a much savvier Batman. But do remember, CB is portraying a man who just became Batman, so even if he was a bit of a klutz, it should be still believable.
What I like about Batman Begins is it doesn't draw that line. It in fact enourages the viewers to see the man behind the mask and that Bruce Wayne was Bruce Wayne and Batman all along. They aren't separate. In that sense, I believe Christian Bale is the better Bruce Wayne/Batman because he makes Batman vulnerable and yet determined to be invincible. He makes us care for Bruce Wayne and applaud him when he became Batman.
There are many criticisms, and I wish to address them one by one ...
1. CB's Batman voice was horrible
I agree. Michael Keaton's was better but does it make CB's Batman less menacing? No. You see Bruce Wayne doesn't want anyone to know he's Batman and surely he can't go talking like Bruce Wayne. He adopted a voice which he feels will maximise the input of fear and of course minimise his exposure for who he really is. So yes his voice may be terrible but not entirely unsuitable.
2. Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne savvier, more sophisticated, more magnetism/charismatic
This I totally disagree as Michael Keaton had the honours of playing a much older and experienced Bruce Wayne, so surely he must have earned some respect in the community by reason of the fact that he was filthy rich. CB's Bruce Wayne tried to draw himself away from the question that Alfred posed; people would wonder what does Bruce Wayne do with his free time? So he went on a spending spree, became totally arrogant and became really a jerk. He wasn't as such in real but he had to be, to stop people from asking questions and more particularly, he didn't want Henri Ducard to hurt the guests at his house in that scene in the movie. There is a perfect explanation for his behaviour and I believe some Batman fans may not see that. Frankly, Christian Bale looks more sophisticated and charismatic in a suit as Bruce Wayne. Moreover he looks believable as someone young and filthy rich. Not to take the credit away from Michael Keaton but he doesn't look that savvy.
3. Michael Keaton is a stronger Batman
In terms of eyes, looks piercing gaze, yes. In terms of acting, I have to say CB looks more believable in the sense I believe he could kill, punch and kick at the same time. Anyone who has seen Equilibrium will agree that physically, he's the man. Moreover the flexibility of the new Batman suit makes the new Batman more agile and since we saw his early training and those ninja like moves, it is natural to see this new Batman as more believably action oriented BUT this movie also shows he is also human, susceptible to bruises and yes, exhaustion.
4. CB's Batman/Bruce Wayne is so gloomy/angry, not very witty/wise/steady/etc
It is true that Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne is much happier but look at these two versions as complimenting each other, I can see no conflict after Michael Keaton is a much older, mature and perhaps happier Bruce Wayne whilst CB is an angrier, sullen, gloomy one since he is burdened with guilt and anger. I really like CB's Bruce Wayne/Batman because it is more real. No happy go lucky guy is going to dress as a Bat saving the city, it must take more than that. But like I said, they do compliment one another instead of being in conflict
5. Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne/Batman is sexier
Well, taste differs. I personally prefer CB although he doesn't look at tall as reported. I suspect not even as tall as reported. And he has more hair which is a plus point. But true true his accent can be rather too forced.
Who else? I personally prefer CB but looking at these two interpretations, I see them as a continuing saga. I don't see a conflict, more so when CB's lips really look like Micheal Keaton's in this movie. Perhaps a concious move?