It can be the kiss of death to go into a movie with sky-high expectations. I went in thinking it'd be The Greatest Movie Ever. Whereas it was just good. Which isn't bad, but isn't TGME.
First, the things I liked:
I liked that it was grittier and more realistic in its way than previous Batman movies. The pre-Gotham stuff was cinematically beautiful and full of fun kink. Plus they left it totally open for slash potential. Which is never not a plus.
Overall, I just thought the whole origin story was great. I haven't read any of the comic books or graphic novels, but there were wonderful details that showed a lot of thought and were recognizable backstory even for someone like me. My favorite happened during the scenes where the inmates escaped from Arkham and spread out through the Narrows. As they're drugged and hallucinating, Batman flies above them, and they all see him as this terrifying red-eyed demon. And that makes so much sense to me, because one of the credibility issues for superheroes is being taken seriously when they're running around in costumes and masks and naming themselves after small flying mammals. So here's the perfect explanation for why he *is* taken seriously--because the inmates who'll become the criminals Batman fights have been exposed to him for the first time while they're in a highly susceptible state of terror. Many of them will probably have nightmares of him for years to come, as will the inhabitants of the Narrows--ordinary citizens who will help create his mystery and myth.
The actor choices were cool. Especially Linus Roache, Morgan Freeman, and Qui-Gon. Cillian Murphy was the stand-out. He's kind of pretty, but in a highly creepy way that's not so much attractive as disturbingly compelling. I liked his character development and presence; how he started out more or less innocuous but then developed an air of menace that was amazing. And he has a great voice.
Things I didn't like:
Most of the dialogue was simply wooden and terrible. And the movie took itself too seriously--erring on the opposite side from the earlier movies, which were often too campy.
As just one example, the whole bit where Rachel identifies Batman as Bruce Wayne because he repeats that line back to her (about it being what you do, not who you are inside, that matters) was just GAH. So not good.
Overall, I just wasn't surprised enough. Even with a story where known elements have to be adhered to, there's potential for startling the audience, at least in how it's executed. But the initial parts of the movie were what I'd been expecting from the trailer, and the later parts weren't especially novel. E.g., the whole "Let's target the District Attorney" plotline. Yeah yeah. I did like that the Mafia guy was taken out of the picture early on--I didn't expect that. And the drug plotline was cool, I admit. (And reminded me a lot of Alias. Ha!) But it wasn't all that and a bag of chips. Just the bag of chips, really. I do like chips, but...eh.
I may be the only person who didn't like Michael Caine's performance. I thought his accent was bizarrely distracting and his mannerisms were too broad. I'd have liked the role played by someone more subtle.
Katie Holmes was just out of her league.
Christian Bale's pancake make-up was often distracting in later scenes, and many of his line deliveries while in the Batman mask were melodramatically sonorous, which pained me on his behalf.
Overall, it was around a B-. If I see it again, maybe I'd revise that upward. That's happened before, with movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, where I adored both Sparrow and Norrington more and more the second and third times around.