Originally Posted by Saint
It's like Nolan always said--he only ever planned one film at a time. The end of the Dark Knight, I think, was designed so that it could have easily been the "end" of the series if Nolan decided he didn't have another film in him.
I did feel, at the end of TDK, the message was that Bruce had realized he would need to be Batman for the long run. Of course, that's not what Nolan went with when he decided to do another film--but I think the inconsistency was handled reasonably. Even if Bruce wanted to be Batman--and Alfred definitely thought he still did--TDKR's solution to the problem is that there was no longer any need. Doesn't jive with traditional Batman mythos, but makes more sense in a universe where it would be kind of asinine to have this high tech urban soldier roaming the streets for muggings.
So there's definitely a disconnect there, I agree--but I forgive it as a necessary evil for the story Nolan ultimately decided to tell in the third film.
Technically, both BB and TDK had endings that didn't need sequels. Batman Begins isn't just an origin story; it stands on its own. Had TDK & TDKR not have existed, it still would've been a great conclusion to that Batman. The same thing can be said about TDK's ending. In fact, TDK's ending was so good that one of my biggest fears was that they wouldn't have found any good way to top that ending in future films. BatLobsterRises brought up a great point when he said that regardless of who you are, whether you thought TDKR honored or went against TDK's ending, TDK's ending was an absolutely fantastic ending for all of us. And yet, there was still room for more stories after both BB's ending and
I think Nolan may have perfected storytelling in comic book movies. The man found the perfect balance between focusing on one movie at a time while still leaving small things here and there for sequels. There are CBM's like the MCU films that focus too much on setting up for Avengers instead of fully focusing on the story at hand. The Amazing Spider-Man is also guilty of this to an extent - it sets up too much for sequels instead of having complete focus on the movie at hand. Then there are movies that do the exact opposite and literally have nothing there that could be continued or developed in a sequel, making the movies far too stand-alone from each other. Burton's Batman and Raimi's Spider-Man are the best examples of this. Nolan found a good balance between both. He focused on the movie at hand - one movie at a time - and didn't let the future bug him too much to the point where he made movies that would still work well even if they never had sequels. But at the same time, he also left little things here and there that have set up things for the future of the franchise (Joker's card at the end of BB, Scarecrow on the loose, the rise of "freaks", Batman on the run, etc.) and never let the time gap in between the movies fast forward too much (excluding the 8 year gap in TDKR). That is how CBM's should be done IMO. Man of Steel is following that same film philosophy according to Goyer, and we know that MOS will give birth to a DC Cinematic Universe. What I think this means is that even though the Nolan Batman films will possibly not be part of this universe (unless WB gets greedy and decides to tie them in), their "heart" or "spirit" or whatever you wanna call it will still live on in this universe because they have given that universe the blueprints for how to do CBM's that have that perfect balance. Heck, MOS and the DCCU may just be the next step in this evolution of DC films - not only do they keep the blueprints from the Nolan films but take it up a notch by bringing in fantasy elements and finding the perfect balance between fantasy and realism, not restricting any possibilities like the TDK trilogy did.
As for the whole crime-free city scenario, I don't believe Gotham didn't need Batman for several reasons. I already talked about them over and over again though and the opposing side probably already knows my arguments.