In a new interview Nolan, whose Dark Knight Trilogy will come to video on Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray, explains the ending in the context of what he set out to do with the three films he made between 2005 and 2012.
"For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol," Nolan told Film Comment. "He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character."
"For me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins," the director continued, "where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on."