Back in 2005, my newspaper job allowed me some schedule flexibility. So I caught a Tuesday midnight show (technically, 12:20 a.m. Wednesday, after endless trailers) of Batman Begins at a nice theater. I actually saw "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" first because I got to the theater about 9 p.m. and couldn't think what to do to waste 3 hours (was too far from home to go there first).
I got out of the theater about 3:30 a.m. I remember we all gave it a big round of applause at the end and there was a lot of "Wow that was a great movie!" chatter as I walked out into the Gotham City-like darkness to my car.
I'm sick about Heath Ledger, but hopefully his by all accounts unique Joker portrayal will be a fitting (if tragic, I'd rather have him seen keep growing as an actor) epitaph for him. There are a lot of marketing concerns, but July's a long way off and I think it would be a tougher (e.g., more uncomfortable) marketing situation if it was due out shortly.
One thing to watch in The Dark Knight -- the costume designer said in an interview they were finally able to make the costume's neck in such a way that Bale or his stuntmen can twist their neck around. They seemed to indicate it was "fixed" hard rubber in BB, so he would have to sort of shift his body to look in another direction. Just a little thing, but it should let whomever's playing Batman look a little more natural in terms of physical movement.
I liked the '89 Batman, but I never sensed that Tim Burton had any affinity for Batman. His interest was strictly in villains and their warped henchmen. I wanted to like Batman Returns, but something about watching Danny Devito vomiting black blood as the Penguin seemed completely too far from the comic book Penguin.
I knew once I read about Chris Nolan and writer David Goyer digging through DC Comics' Batman archives for research before writing Batman Begins, that it'd be something special and not another Big Studio Hack Job comic book film.
Goyer, who a while back was canned as director of "The Flash", I think has some storyline credit still on TDK. Nolan's brother wrote the TDK script so hopefully it'll be as interesting.