Superhero films, adapted from comic books, are ubiquitous in contemporary film. With the popularization of the Marvel and DC Comics universe on the screen, more and more films about supernatural heroes and villains are released each year. Among the gigantic canon of superhero films, The Dark Knight stands out as a particularly significant cinematic achievement, often topping critics' lists of the best superhero films of all time, but it is certainly not the first cinematic take on the Batman story.
Batman the character was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger for DC Comics, and he first appeared in films in the 1940s: Batman, a 1943 serial starring Lewis Wilson, and Batman and Robin, a 1949 serial starring Robert Lowery. Another Batman film was released in 1966 starring Adam West, before Michael Keaton took on the role in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the films Batman and Batman Returns, both directed by Tim Burton. Between then and now, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney all appeared as the caped hero, to varying levels of acclaim.
When Christopher Nolan helmed Batman Begins in 2005, many critics applauded a more adult approach to the material. In an article for The National Review in 2019, Kyle Smith wrote of the reinterpretation, "In 2005 Christopher Nolan set out to reverse the polarity of culture. He took a children’s genre — the comic-book superhero movie — and approached it with an adult sensibility. Batman Begins, directed and co-written by Nolan, was the first fully grown-up superhero movie, its maturity of both form and content unprecedented."
Still, there are others who are fatigued by the seeming interminability of the franchise. When it was announced that Robert Pattinson would take on the role in an upcoming 2021 Batman film, Drew Schwartz wrote an article for Vice about the culture's overexposure to the caped crusader. He wrote, "The Dark Knight trilogy was a towering achievement: Christopher Nolan indelibly changed our conception of what a superhero movie could be, cast aside the tropes and the pitfalls and elevated a pedestrian, commercial genre into something more. Something important. Something you might even call—when you look at an endlessly re-watchable movie like The Dark Knight—immaculate. But this is the point: He already did that. It is over. It has been done literally ten times, it has been done better than anyone has ever done it or will ever do it, and it is time to move on."