Christian Bale doesn't get enough respect for his performance as Batman. Before he came along, Bruce Wayne was just some guy filling time until Batman showed up. They were so different as to be individual characters (the '60s TV show even budgeted them each week as different characters.)
With Batman Begins, though, Batman and Bruce Wayne finally became the same guy. The costume was almost beside the point, with some of Bale's best scenes (the "drunken" birthday party scene, especially) taking place out of superhero drag.
Those of us in the flyover states rarely get to see the products of the annual Oscar campaigns. Studios sink small fortunes into shadow campaigns to win their movies a little prestige and, with The Dark Knight, Warners had a chance to get both their leading men nominations.
Below are a few ads from Warners' push for The Dark Knight.