Visionary director Christopher Nolan's superbly mean and moody reboot of the Batman legend sees Christian Bale as Gotham City's leading citizen, crimefighter and saviour, Bruce Wayne. Forgoing the cartoonish goth of Burton and the gloss of Schumacher, Nolan and screenwriter David S Goyer plunge deep into the dark heart and soul of both the city and its bat-fixated saviour with an adventure that goes back to the Dark Knight's origins before pitting him against Cillian Murphy's toxic psycho The Scarecrow. From cast to execution, it's a blockbuster that sends out an awesome signal.
Love him or hate him, Batman has embedded himself in the cultural psyche.
From comic strip masked man, through Saturday morning serial urban cowboy, sixties camp, graphic novel grit and big screen carnival - everyone knows the Batman.
So is this latest reworking any good?
No. It's brilliant.
Tight, stylish direction and a script that wisely borrows from classic Batman comics The Man Who Falls, Year One and The Long Halloween wed happily with a stellar cast led by Christian Bale one-notch down from his American Psycho menace.
An origins movie, Batman Begins expands on the flashbacks Tim Burton peppered his original movie with, depicting the rise of billionaire Bruce Wayne from traumatised boy witnessing the murder of both parents to dark detective sweeping through Gotham's underworld.
Going back to the comics, the movie reveals how the preppy rich boy transforms into the caped crusader, via a pilgrimage to the East where he meets Ninja cult leader Ra's Al-Ghul and turns anger and vengeance into something far more powerful.
Returning to a Gotham City in the pocket of organised crime, his new identity finds a home under Wayne Manor and makes use of the technology invented by the company that made him a billionaire.
The Nolan/Goyer dynamic duo have tapped into a completely different vein from the previous outings - delighting both Bat-fanatics and audiences by venturing into the Dark Knight and avoiding camp or Gothic overkill, having a ball playing the premise of a bat-suited vigilante cleaning the streets deadly serious.
Nolan's keep it real approach extends to a rejection of flimsy CGI in favour of location shooting (on the mean streets of Chicago), and overcomes the pitfalls of gigglesome villains by making Cillian Murphy's psycho-psychiatrist Jonathan Crane (aka Scarecrow) a nightmare image of lunacy in a sackcloth hood, armed with a potent fear toxin.
Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson and Gary Oldman join Bale and Murphy in the defiantly un-American cast (Morgan Freeman and Katie Holmes stand alone representing the US of A), providing formidable acting talent that echoes the Oscar-winning brace of Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman who guaranteed the first Superman soared above expectations.
Going back to the beginning and erasing Joel Schumacher's abominations was the best choice Christopher Nolan could have made, and an epilogue offers a mouth-watering glimpse of things to come (the Joker!).
A blockbuster with brain and brawn, this is the film summer was always waiting for.