I saw The Dark Knight Rises this weekend and it has some wonderful moments and some significant flaws, but above all it raises a question -- is Batman for kids or for adults? Christopher Nolan obviously treated the subject matter with heavy seriousness, as did creator Bob Kane in those first stories from 1939 right up to the comics of Dennis O'Neill and Neal Adams and of course the legendary grittiness of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. This is definitely not the campy Batman of the Adam West TV series or the Joel Schumacher movies. Nolan has added a realism to the saga that makes even the Tim Burton movies seem a bit cartoonish.
The animated versions have also been a wide spectrum of different styles and personalities for the Caped Crusader. It's as if the character forces his creators to go back and forth from the two extremes. DC Entertainment will no doubt try to make another Batman movie down the road -- will it stick with the Nolan style or try to loosen up the tone again? Can the less-serious Batman even work now that audiences have embraced Christian Bale's Dark Knight?
DC and Warner Bros. obviously want to attract both the adult market and the younger market, so the merchandising is just as schizophrenic -- violent, scary, brooding, yet also cartoony (after all, he's a grown man dressed as a bat with outlandish gizmos at his disposal.)
The demographics for comic book readers skews older, so even though kids obviously still love Batman, will the current Dark Knight version continue or will they try to swing the other way a bit? Personally I don't want to see a campy Batman ever again, but at the same time I don't want the character to be overly dark and depressing. I thought Nolan captured the perfect balance in his first film Batman Begins. His next two films have earned critical praise and box office success (even though they tended to run a bit too long), but where do they go from here?