It was really hard to take Batman seriously back in the days when he was on television and all his punches were accompanied by cartoon balloons spelling out "kapow" and knowing it was Adam West under the cowl. The 1960s show was only saved by the presence of people like Eartha Kitt playing Cat Woman — even in those days the villains were a lot more interesting than the heroes. When Michael Keaton donned the cowl for the 1980s version of Batman/Bruce Wayne, the movie was at least visually more interesting as under Tim Burton's direction Gotham City looked like somewhere Dante may have visited on his package tour of Hell. Yet, even though Jack Nicholson was obviously born to play The Joker, the movie ended up being just another super-hero verses super-villain piece where everything was decided in the final frames.
The subsequent movies that rotated various face behind the cowl, and villains to be on the receiving end of the "kapows", were as lame as the original television show and you couldn't even laugh at them because they lacked the high camp quality that made Adam West and company bearable. So the news that a new attempt at filming the guy in the pointy-eared cowl didn't exactly bowl me over, but when I eventually did see Batman Begins, I was impressed. Not only did it give a plausible explanation for how Batman received his training, it never made him out to be anything more than a human being, as vulnerable and fallible as the rest of us.
When the promotional material started appearing for The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins, showing the first images of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker, it looked like the folks behind the movie, writer/director Christopher Nolan and writer Jonathan Nolan, were going to take the story in a direction that promised to go places that not only previous Batman movies hadn't gone, but none of the other super-hero movies had dared either. Working outside the law, Batman is able to do things that the cops aren't able to, but does that make him a hero because he's willing to torture somebody to find out information? We get upset because our government has been authorizing torture of possible terrorists — how is Batman beating up on The Joker any different?