Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 27th February 2018
In this second spin off movie from “Batman: The Animated Series”, Batman/Bruce Wayne and Robin/Dick Grayson must rescue Barbara Goodson/Batgirl from the evil Mr. Freeze/Victor Fries; who wants to use the poor girl as a live organ donor to save his wife’s life. The film was made to tie in with the theatrical release of the infamously bad Batman & Robin.
Now, I will admit that this is essentially an hour long episode of the TV Show it’s based on. However, it still functions well as a movie, because a typical Batman: TAS episode is usually VERY cinematic for a TV budget. For a straight to video production, it feels and looks splendidly theatrical. The camera swoops around like it’s filming for a Hollywood blockbuster, and there’s lots of shots that are directed with a great sense of creating atmosphere.
Like the TV Show too, our heroes are written very maturely. They can be very thorough when investigating what’s going on, with all three using clever observations to clue in what Mr. Freeze is up to. They can also kick ass as always, even if their restrained! Heck, Barbara doesn’t helplessly whine once kidnapped, she feistily stands up for herself and even attempts to effectively escape.
I also respect these heroes for showing compassion towards Freeze, even though he was disturbingly close to performing live surgery on Barbara, that shows a moving forgiveness that makes the trio endearingly sympathetic. Even when Barbara finds out that Victor needs an organ donation from Barbara, she bravely volunteers to help his wife IF the transfusion happens at a hospital – which Victor bitterly declines out of his hatred towards society.
That’s the thing, Mr. Freeze is a very tragic villain, perhaps one of the saddest cases from Batman’s gallery of rogues. Unlike your typical antagonist, he’s not after money or world domination, he just wants to save his wife’s life. Yes, his methods are dangerous and psychopathic, but the fact that he has a loved ones’ health in mind, shows that he has some sense of humanity deep down. I mean, we also learn that he took in an orphan boy, which does show this hidden soft side to him, but it’s still unsettling that the boy is naive to Victor’s cruelty.
However, he’s still a very threatening presence too! Thanks to his cold apathy, powerful freezing gun, and intimidating pet polar bears. If you ever wanted to watch the caped crusader and boy wonder take on freaking polar bears, then this is the movie for you.
The film knows this, and frames Victor with a balance of sympathy & repulsion; both shaming him for his crimes AND also making us feel for his heartbreak. This means that we’re given one hell of a complex antagonist for this film. Even after watching him kidnap Barabara, you might actually tear up at the film’s bittersweet ending to his arc.
But the film isn’t all sadness and pain, we also get to see Dick and Barbara becoming a romantic item. Even though the main plot kicks in quite soon, we still get to see these two illustrating a great chemistry together as a couple. There’s a cuteness to their affectionate exchanges, and they do look quite happy in each other’s company.
I also like how much they deeply Dick & Barbara for each other, going as far as making sacrifices or life risking decisions in order to save the other. Not to mention, the fact that they’re now getting romantically closer, makes Barbara’s rescue all the more emotional & personal for Robin.
The only thing that holds this film back, in my opinion, is that it’s only 64 minutes long in total. I think that this greatly hinders the film from being something more than a double length episode of the TV Show. As well told and highly competent as the story is, there’s still a very fast momentum to way the movie is following it’s beats, and it doesn’t have time to slow down. It’s not obnoxiously hyperactive or anything, it just knows that it’s only got an hour to get things across, and has to stay on track no matter what.
This doesn’t make it a bad film, it just means that I was left wishing that there was a bit more to the film outside of it’s beats, and that the movie took breathers from it’s nimble pacing. The film simply required a more ambitious running time, so it could be have been fleshed out into something truly outstanding.
To conclude, when it comes down to it, “Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero” is pretty much a very awesome longer-than-usual episode of Batman: TAS. It has smart & strong characters, a well rounded villain, and an adorable romantic subplot. It’s just that it feels like a recut of something even greater, because of the very short running time.
With an extra 30 minutes, there could have been more scenes for possible extra character development, frequent breaks from action sequences or intense confrontations, and lots more time for us to hang out with our heroes before Mr. Freeze steps in. What I’m saying is, this film is very good, a really well put together Batman film, but it’s not as phenomenal as it potentially could have been.