You're a man after my own heart georgec. It kinda bums me out too to that some fans were disappointed, and I agree with everything you said regarding Bruce's arc and the beauty of how it is expressed and wrapped up in TDKR.
What's interesting is I believe Bruce's arc is sort of the litmus test for how people tend to fall on TDKR. I would say that most people I've talked to who liked the 8 year gap/Bruce as a recluse, and liked how he cements his legacy/retires at the end generally love the movie. And it's no surprise because Bruce's arc is clearly the most important factor in the movie. I would have to imagine it'd be really hard to invest emotionally in a movie if you're just sitting there thinking, "Batman would never do that". Bruce retiring after TDK was a bold creative choice, but unfortunately it hit a false note for a lot of fans and started them off on the wrong foot for the whole movie. If you go with it though, it's an extraordinarily satisfying journey for Bruce, and coming out of retirement is definitely a huge part of it.
That scene where Lucius is taking Bruce to the Bat...so good. The longing and nostalgia in Bruce's voice ("But all this new stuff?). It has such a bittersweet quality to it. Both phases of Bruce's journey are essential (pre and post back breaking). The first phase is a hero rising from the ashes of a broken man. The second phase is a man rising from the ashes of a broken hero. Some found Batman having to come back twice to be structurally odd, but it's about what's at stake for Bruce Wayne each time. The movie is very much about second chances, so I thought Batman having two big returns was a great way to illustrate what Bruce had learned 5 months later.
Originally Posted by The Joker
There's no reason for anyone to think that because the ACTUAL reason is spelled out in the movie:
Oh, I agree. But for whatever reason, a lot of people either missed or ignored that and seemed eager to reduce Bruce's behavior to dead girlfriend syndrome. *Shrug*