Like the film itself — a rare intellectual action epic — the event was, for the most part, an unusually tasteful affair. Most of the men were in suits and ties, and most women in formal wear. Even the arrivals-line carpet was done in basic black. The tone of the evening was spirited but professional.
Then came Cruise, arriving with girlfriend Katie Holmes (search), a supporting actor in the film. Hundreds of onlookers greeted the two with screams, and paparazzi shifted into gear.
After posing for photos the two separated, with Holmes venturing out alone to speak to press on the arrivals line, and Cruise walking across Hollywood Boulevard to sign autographs for fans.
When asked to confirm reports of their plans to marry, Holmes smiled and replied to Associated Press Television News: "Well, you know, we have to talk about that, together, first. But thank you."
The couple reunited near the tail end of the arrivals line, briefly chatted with premiere guests and entered the Grauman's Chinese Theater.
Undoubtedly, Cruise stole the spotlight from "Batman Begins" headliner Christian Bale, an art-film veteran, who, traditionally would have been the one meeting the fans and signing the autographs.
But not even that turn of events seemed to dampen Bale's spirits. Shortly after Cruise-Holmes' arrival, Bale said he was thrilled but a bit overwhelmed by the size and scope of the event.
"How can you ever get used to something like this?" he exclaimed. "This is surreal. I'm expecting my life, just for the next couple of weeks, to become topsy-turvy, and be prepared for that. And hopefully after that it'll go back to the normalcy that I cherish."
He shouldn't count on that. "Batman Begins," which opens June 15, has already earned some solid reviews, living up to its title by taking "Batman" back to its dark, graphic-novel roots.
While the film's arty aspirations may keep it from being another "Spider-Man"-size megablockbuster, many industry insiders expect it to be a commercial success, which would boost Bale's Hollywood star power.
The actor said the new film "respectfully ignores" the four previous big-budget "Batman" epics and goes a new way, telling the saga from the beginning with more character study and fewer special effects.
Directed by Christopher Nolan ("Memento," "Insomnia"), the production attracted an A-list supporting cast, including Oscar winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, and Oscar nominees Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman — all of whom were in attendance at the premiere.
Holmes plays Bruce Wayne's childhood friend, who grows up to become Gotham City's district attorney.
"You know what?" she asked. "I was so thrilled to be a part of this movie. I've been a fan of 'Batman' and it was so exciting to be a part of it and then my excitement only grew with every day on set. It was just thrilling and you know to have it finally come out, I'm just so happy."
So, it seemed, were Caine, Oldman and Bale — all of whom indicated they'd be game for a sequel.
"Let me tell you something," Caine revealed. "I know that those sets in England are still standing for a good reason."