Originally Posted by CConn
Once he's able to do this at the end of B89, his meaning for life itself is gone, so he becomes even more lost and rudderless; becoming an almost psychotic killer - thinking nothing of killing goons and thugs in BR. But, during this, he meets Selina, and she acts as his own dark mirror.
Through her he can see how futile it is to loose yourself in anger and pain and revenge. And that's exactly what he falls in love with her, and what's to help her so badly, because he wants them to save each other. Even though that doesn't happen for Selina, by the end of BR, Bruce realizes that he needs to overcome that pain rather than getting lost in it.
Which is made evident in BF, where he immediately shows a much more natural and sane interest in life outside of Batman (actual interaction with Wayne Enterprises, taking in Dick).
And that entire character arc was done with far more skill, nuance, and realism than anything in Nolan's films. Real people don't act like Nolan's characters. They don't have endless exposition that precisely explains their feelings and motivations. Instead, all of that would be done inwardly, largely hidden from the real life events swirling around him. And that's exactly what Burton and Keaton were always able to achieve.
But see, that's partially the problem. I know BF is considered a loose sequel to Burton's movies, but if we're discussing Burton you can't go and use BF to inform the character arc of Burton's films when we have no idea what Burton's third movie would have actually looked like. Maybe it would have been close to what BF is...but we don't know. If Burton had been allowed to finish his story, perhaps we'd have a more complete character arc for Batman. As it stands we were left with an unfinished story and I still have no reason to believe Keaton's Batman has ultimately changed in any lasting way as a result of the events of Batman Returns
Is he going to be any less obsessed with killing goons and thugs in the future as a result of his flirtation with hope with Selina? I have no idea. I can't use Batman Forever to come to any conclusions because that movie was a deliberate attempt by the studio to lighten up the franchise.
Again though, I loved the subtle, inward approach of Burton. I have a similar reading of BR as you do, I just feel a lot of it is ultimately ambiguous because that's how Burton viewed Batman as a character. I just also loved the more pronounced arc we got with Nolan. It's okay to enjoy both.