Nobody does Gothic better than Tim Burton, and his return to the Batman franchise is superior in almost every way to his first effort as well as being a hair's breadth behind the newest entry.
What makes the Batman films stand out (discounting Forever and Robin) is their dark nature which is as much about the inner conflict of both hero and villain. Keaton's Batman is different to Bale's; like him he is split, troubled and somewhat empty inside-the old wounds of his parents' death have not healed, and he finds it almost impossible to reconcile the two sides of his life. Unlike Bale's spoilt, tempremental, tantrum-figure, however, Keaton brings a more mature, calmer character, albeit with a deal of wit. The effect is to gain our sympathy and empathy for his dilemma in a tribute to Keaton's talent. Likewise, DeVito is quite excellent as the sadistic, destructive but again remarkably witty Penguin, and is suitably frightening and disgusting to boot. He's not quite as good as Jack Nicholson's Joker, but it's a very impressive effort. Perhaps the real gem is the brilliantly electric Pfeiffer, who totally brings Catwoman's duality to life and again gains our empathy. In particular at moments in Bruce Wayne and Selina's (her true name) interplay where Keaton flags, Pfeiffer shows a depth of ability that sustains her for the entire film and is vastly superior to Kim Basinger's lacklustre performance in Batman. Walken provides a further nemesis for Wayne that is understandably priceless.
One must not forget the many other elements that make this film; Burton's superb direction features a whole array of wonderfully dark shots of the city lit by twinkling lights which keeps the sinister atmosphere intact. The moody tone is of course interspersed with some great fight scenes that show a significant improvement of special effects from the original as well as giving the characters a good deal of more gadgets and weapons.
It's not really close to the comics, but the script is cutting-edge, the acting almost perfect and the result is an exciting, often moving, film with the sentimentality of other superhero efforts kept down and an ending that is most satisfying.