Originally Posted by Shikamaru
I said that in my last post. I don't know what exactly was originally planned but whatever it was, you can tell by analyzing the first two movies that it was clearly something that we did not get. Maybe the ending with Bruce retiring and a few other things would've been the same but overall, most of the movie would've been completely different.
We do know that Ledger was signed on for another movie though. We don't know how much or a major or minor part he would've played but he would've had some sort of presence though.
There was no detailed plan but there was definitely at least some sort of basic plan in Nolan's head just like how there was a basic small outline in his head for TDK after Batman. When I say "basic small outline", I'm talking about simply "Batman fights *insert villain*, goes through *insert character arc*, and theme is *insert theme*." Something as simple as that that can be described in one or two sentences.
Ideas from future sequels were condensed in Begins too, and some from Begins were even moved into TDK but that didn't cause a major shift in Nolan's basic outline. The Joker was still the villain in TDK by the end of the day and BB's ending set this up.
Yes, TDK is a stand alone film despite being a sequel but so is BB. Both movies are stand-alone movies but work as part of an overall franchise too. That's why I don't think the whole trilogy works as a natural trilogy like how Star Wars and LOTR do. SW and LOTR were essentially one big story cut into 3 parts while BB and TDK feel and are formatted more like the first 2 stories in an ongoing franchise.
We have no way of knowing what Nolan always wanted and what he changed his mind on as of the moment he started production on TDKR. Nolan also said that Bruce's original plan was to be Batman for a short amount of time (for about 5 years) only for him to eventually realize down the line that it wouldn't be so easy (something like that). I believe he said this in the Art of Making the Dark Knight Trilogy but it might have been somewhere else. That to me shows that he did not do what he set out to do originally and that the ending wasn't even planned from the start, or at least not the ending we got.
It was almost never a trilogy either. Nolan wasn't sure whether or not he wanted to come back after BB and then after TDK. Heck, he barely came back after TDK and many people were surprised he did. You also have quotes from him like the one from when he was asked about Robin. He said Robin wouldn't appear for a few movies because Bale was still portraying a "young Batman" and Robin would still be a little kid. It wasn't until TDKR when the whole "this was always meant to be a trilogy!" and "end of the epic trilogy!" thing came along. Like I said earlier, BB and TDK were not building a trilogy but a franchise with themes like the whole "freaks" theme and the whole "this is the young Year One Batman" theme, and if they were supposed to build a trilogy, they did not succeed at that IMO because it is not a proper three-act trilogy.
As for the 8 year gap, I disagree. You could've still had him operate as Batman during those 8 years and him quitting at the end would've worked a lot better because it would've felt like he fully earned retirement after 9 overall years of being Batman and going on tons of battles as opposed to just 3 or 4 of them. I think so many more people would've accepted the ending a lot more if Nolan did that. As for people being pissed off if Nolan would've had Bruce retire so young at so early in his career, that goes back to the point I made before. BB and TDK were setting up a franchise and heavily implied over and over again that Bruce would be Batman for a long time. I don't think there was anyone that would disagree with this prior to TDKR coming out. Nolan knew this so he had to contrive a story that takes place several years after BB and TDK in which Bruce does not operate as Batman and retires for good at the end just so that he could justify to WB ending a Batman franchise about a very young Batman so soon and to make sure they don't continue his franchise after Nolan left. And while I wouldn't have wanted the franchise to continue after Nolan left and wished we lived in the perfect world where WB respects Nolan's wishes to not milk his franchise and just reboot, I don't think Nolan is any better for doing what he did and for why he did it.
And finally, why do you keep insisting that it just HAD to end with Bruce retiring? Who says it must end that way? Excluding the fact that I don't buy that he would ever retire until he's at least an old man based on everything in BB and TDK, Bruce retiring the way he did and leaving Gotham for good completely flies in the face of the essence of Batman. Part of what makes Batman one of the greatest superheroes of all time is his motivation and commitment to his mission. He is the last superhero to ever quit like that. That's why I find the ending to have one of the biggest anti-Batman messages I've ever seen in anything. It really surprises me that so many fans are ok with it.
There are also ways to give Bruce a happy ending without flying the face of the essence of Batman. Bruce has a very different perspective on life than you and I do. What he consider to be a happy life is not what he would consider to be a happy life and vice versa but it wouldn't matter as long as it makes Bruce happy. Frank Miller managed to make Bruce retire and give him a happy ending in The Dark Knight Returns without going against the essence of Batman like Nolan did. Bruce fakes his death and retires at the end of TDK Returns but he doesn't just abandon Gotham to go party with a hot chick. He is retired but at the same time, he passes on his Batman persona to the "Sons of the Batman" by training them and preparing them to continue his legacy in Gotham. The last line in the book is "This will be a good life. Good enough." That is the way to do a proper retirement for Batman. Miller managed to make him retire without having Bruce being like "**** it. I quit. Let's go party in Europe, Selina! Here are the keys to the Batcave, Robin. You're own your own by the way." What would've been in character for Bruce was for him to retire but prepare Blake for continuing his legacy. What he does instead is leave Gotham when Gotham is in a worse condition than it was both at the end of BB and at the end of TDK and just leaves Blake on his own. He doesn't train him or prepare him in any way. He completely leaves him on his own to protect Gotham in a Dent Act-less Gotham. He has no way of knowing whether or not Blake will continue the Batman legacy, whether or not he will survive out there for long since he doesn't give him any training, or whether or not someone like the Joker will come along and corrupt Blake just like how Harvey was corrupted. It's the same thing as your father giving you the car keys at the age of 15 or 16 when you first learned to drive but instead of actually showing you anything, he just gives you the keys and tells you you're on your own then runs off with your mom to a party. That is essentially what Bruce did. On top of that, he barely even knows Blake and only had like 3 scenes with him yet he gives him the mantle. It really surprises me how people are not able to see all these problems in the ending.
Let's also not forget that the entire message of the movie is that lying is bad even when it is for the greater good. Everyone that lied at the end of TDK (Batman, Gordon, Alfred, etc.) gets to suffer the consequences in TDKR despite their intentions, yet the ending is literally Bruce lying by saying the autopilot doesn't work and by faking his death.