Originally Posted by DACrowe
I think it is more in how you want to interpret Batman in a world with real-ish consequences (not so much realistic as more grounded than most comic books).
Much of crime is a symptom of larger ills facing society. Not all, but there is no denying that poverty, corruption and lack of resource breeds stronger criminal elements in any society.
Nolan wished to provide some grounded consequences to his Batman while still making him incredibly altruistic and heroic. In doing so, he made his goal about improving society. And in doing so, it cannot just be a rich man punching poor people in the face on an "average night out."
You CAN do that in Nolan's setting. Indeed, I think that is more or less Frank Miller's approach to the character. However, it is very cynical, mean-spirited and nihilistic. In essence, it says Bruce Wayne does this not to change or improve society for a fearful urban population, but that it is wholly an outlet to feed his disturbed psychology: It's his form of therapy. Miller and even Burton touched on this more cynical and selfish view of the character, but both painted Batman in near apocalyptic settings where such an unstable protagonist's true motivations did not diminish the fact that he was facing cartoonish evil and villainy.
Once you apply real consequences to it, Batman looks somewhat like a sadistic narcissist who instead of using his fortune to help improve the lives of Gothamites, instead uses it to feed his id. Granted, some would be happy with this interpretation, but Nolan sought to both ground it while maintaining the more romantic light of, say, Paul Dini or Denny O'Neal. So, for his Bruce, the bigger picture is always in mind (something rarely addressed by anyone not named Grant Morrison at DC Comics), and his goal is to improve Gotham City to the point where society can function admirably without the need for vigilante justice. And even so, the psychology and narcissism of it is still addressed in TDKR (another reason some fans hate that movie).
Another way to put it is if Gotham City is Nolan's view of Manhattan, judging by the setting in TDKR, if you go there today, you wouldn't think it needs a Batman (though if you go up to the Bronx...). If Batman can get the city to take responsibility for its problems and actually invest in improving itself, not just in law and order but also in civic duties to the inner-city (Bruce is clearly a philanthropist in TDKR like his father whose death "galvanized" the city to address rampant poverty) with an eradicated organized crime element, suddenly Batman becomes just an outlet for Bruce's own psychological trauma.
Which is then addressed in the third movie in a way that may not please some fans, but is one of the more adult readings of the character in any medium.