As much as I love the Nolan films, Bale's performance never really blew me away, and at times was laughable. His performance as Bruce Wayne was fine, but when he tried to do the Batman voice and yell at villains it totally took me out of the movie. I don't think the reaction they were going for when Batman interrogates mob bosses or Joker or Bane was "laugh out loud funny," yet that's exactly the reaction it got in the theaters I saw it in, especially the "Where's the trigger!?"
interrogation of Bane.
Now, I suspect Nolan wouldn't have allowed that to go on for three movies if it wasn't a deliberate choice on his part, so I think the blame for that lies more at Nolan's feet than Bale's probably; and I think Bale is actually a superb actor in his own right in other films. The parts that move me and get me emotional about Batman in the Nolan movies are almost all situational (admiring his sacrifice in the latter two films, etc.) rather than reacting to Bale's performance specifically. Fortunately there's a great ensemble cast to pick up the slack there.
I think Clooney probably had the Bruce Wayne playboy persona down best, though unfortunately it was in a terrible film. It would have been nice to see how he would have handled the character in a proper Batman film and not an Ice Capades show.
Kilmer was utterly forgettable.
Overall though, I think Keaton had the best combination of the Bruce Wayne and Batman personas, and gave a fantastic performance. I prefer the Nolan films over the Burton ones by a great margin despite loving the first Batman
film (not so much Returns
, though), but he retains the edge as Batman for me.