Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero Film Review
Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero is a 1998 animated film that was straight to DVD release taking place after Batman: The Animated Series and before The New Batman Adventures. The film was directed by Boyd Kirkland and starred almost all reprised roles from the Animated Series (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze, Loren Lester as Robin) and Batgirl voiced by Mary Kay Bergman rather than Tara Strong or the original Melissa Gilbert.
SubZero continues the story of Victor Fries, who was last seen in the show trapped in a block of ice with his cryogenically preserved wife, Nora. For unexplained reasons, he is now living in a cave in the arctic peacefully with his two pet Polar Bears, Hotchka and Shaka, as well as an orphaned child named Koonak. He seems to be finally enjoying his life despite not yet saving his wife, until a submarine accidentally crashes into his cave, damaging his wife’s preservation chamber. Desperate to save her, Mr. Freeze gets the help of an old colleague, who says she needs an organ donor that matches her rare AB- blood type. This leads to the kidnapping of a familiar face and now Batman and Robin need to save the day.
I watched this right after watching the entire Animated Series for the first time. To me, Batman: The Animated Series is an animated masterpiece, one of the best TV shows ever made and the definitive Batman experience. Yes, it is hard to say anything is better than The Dark Knight, but I can at least say Kevin Conroy is the best Batman ever, easily. I may do a review of the series someday, but for this review, I’m going to stick to SubZero. Does this film live up to the series? Yes, it absolutely does. SubZero not only has the same art style as the original series, the same writers, and almost entirely the same cast, it also has the tone. This isn’t like the New Adventures, this is back to the dark, Noir tone and melodramatic storytelling that made the Animated Series so brilliant. Mr. Freeze is not evil, he’s just willing to go to any length, kill anyone, to save his beloved wife. Even though he does terrible things, you cannot help but sympathize with his motives. He’s such a sad person in a heartbreaking situation, but that does not justify his methods. As what often happened in the original series, Batman finds that actions don’t always speak louder than words. Sure, there is plenty of great action, but the true hero moments in this movie are done when there is no fighting. There was also a very thrilling motorcycle chase with Robin (out of costume) which I really enjoyed, there weren’t any chase scenes of that magnitude done in the show before, and it was a welcome change of pace. The best thing about this movie was Mr. Freeze, who Michael Ansara plays perfectly as he did in the show. Heart of Ice was the first episode to win an Emmy, and that talent was brought right over to this Annie Award winning film. He is so emotionless and determined, making for a scary but also depressing antagonist.
One glaring flaw in this movie was the use of CGI, something you never saw in The Animated Series. It looks very dated and took me out of the movie every time it was utilized, even during the chase scene I previously said I enjoyed very much. It was mostly used during scenes with the Bat-Wing, Batman’s jet. These scenes instantly took the brilliant shading and beautiful animation and turned it into a plastic Gotham City. That being said, it was not used too much, and did not ruin the movie at all.
In the end, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (has an incredibly long name) was an immensely enjoyable Batman movie and a worthy addition to the universe of Batman: The Animated Series. The performances were excellent, the visuals were stunning, and story was right on par with the incredible standard set by the show. I had such a good time watching this and I recommend it to anyone looking to get into The Animated Series, or anyone in the mood for a great and short Batman movie (70 minutes). I hope everyone checks out this classic and I can’t wait to review Mask of the Phantasm next!