Much as I love the Nolan films, I hate the fact that, ever since they came on the scene, they made it fashionable in the fan community to slag off on the Burton films.
The best Batman comics had an air of realism to them, a measure of credibility, as far as can be possible when delving into the superhero genre. The Burton and Schumacher films rejected that. There is an underlying feeling of them sneering under their breath saying, "Look how silly all this is." In their own way they're mocking the whole exercise. Did they do that intentionally? Burton, maybe not, Schumacher, most likely.
Schumacher was mocking the whole exercise because he didn't know what he was doing. He didn't understand the material, so he resorted to camp. As a piece of camp, the Schumacher movies achieve their objectives. However, there's something hugely garish about doing big-budget camp. I think that's their greatest offense. (That and giving the camp treatment to fundamentally serious, thoughtful villains like Two-Face & Bane. If you replaced them with King Tut, Egghead, or the Mad Hatter, it would have been less bothersome.)
On the other hand, I think it's totally inaccurate & unwarranted to call the Burton films "campy" or "mocking." The Burton films aren't camp. They're gothic melodrama.
If anything, Nolan's The Dark Knight
seems to be the movie least comfortable with its superhero origins. I get the sense throughout the movie that Nolan just wants to make a straight crime drama about Lt. Gordon & Harvey Dent trying to take down the Joker. For the most part, Batman only shows up for some perfunctory action scenes (or to mope about Rachel).
Anything I say about Batman: Returns isn't going to change anyones mind. Truth be told, what most people say are right, it does play more like a Burton film than a proper Batman film.
And I like Tim Burton (generally), so that's just fine with me. I think Batman can tolerate multiple interpretations and I think Burton's gothic approach worked beautifully. I like how Batman (1989)
& Batman Begins
work so well as companion pieces. Batman Begins
is an earnest look at how Batman could plausibly exist in the real world and why a sane man would do these things. Batman (1989)
takes the opposite path. As Tim Burton once described it, for Batman to do what he does, he would have to be, on some level, insane. So the movie is about him meeting a woman and discovering, somewhat to his horror, that the man who has his entire identity wrapped up in his insanity is starting to go sane.
Part of why the Burton movies work so well, IMO, is because Burton embraced the material and made it his own. I think that kind of innovation is being valued less & less among the fan community. There is such a demand for fidelity to the source material, to the exclusion of anything else. No one wants to see things adapted
for another medium with different demands anymore. They just want Hollywood to put a film camera in front of what they're already familiar with. And as a result, we get uninspired, "faithful" messes like Watchmen
or Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.
People often forget just how many "definitive" elements of their favorite mythology resulted not from the source material but from one of the many adaptations. It was already mentioned that Barbara Gordon originated on the 1960s Adam West TV show. Harley Quinn--a fan-favorite to judge by the number of women dressed like her at conventions--originated on the beloved 1990s Batman
cartoon. Kryptonite was originally created by the Superman
radio series to explain why Superman was off the show for a few episodes (covering for Bud Collier's vacation). Superman originally didn't fly. He just jumped really high until the 1940s cartoon animators realized how stupid that looked.
Don't get me wrong. I love the Nolan movies and I think that he got some things right that previous adaptations didn't. But in the end, I don't attribute his movies' success to slavish adherence to the source material but to a healthy respect for it combined with a desire the make it his own.
Pfeiffer, I think was one of the few actors in those films who seems like they were having fun with their character.
I also love the performances that Danny DeVito & Christopher Walken give as the Penguin & Max Schreck.
And it sure seemed like Uma Thurman & John Glover were having a great time vamping it up in Batman & Robin.
It's a terrible movie but they're very good in it because they seem to be the only ones whose performances are matching the tone of the overall movie.