Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero (1998) / Animation-Action
aka Batman: Subzero
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for violence
Running Time: 67 min.
Cast (voices): Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Michael Ansara, Mary Kay Bergman, George Dzundza, Bob Hastings, Marilu Henner
Director: Boyd Kirkland
Screenplay: Boyd Kirkland, Randy Rogel
Review published November 7, 2004
Strictly for fans of "Batman: The Animated Series", Subzero has the dubious distinction of being better than its big-screen counterpart to cast Mr. Freeze as the arch-enemy, Batman and Robin, but not by leaps and bounds. This is a straight-to-video effort that provides modest entertainment for hardcore Batman nuts, but will most likely bore the hell out of everyone else, and if you don't know the basics of the Batman legend, you can forget about understanding much of what's going on, since it is assumed you have at least a passing familiarity with the characters.
The video starts off with Victor Fries (Ansara, Assassination), who has been living in the comfortable (for him) climate of the Arctic, where he laments his days looking over the cryogenically frozen body of his dear wife, Nora. Nora has an illness that Fries cannot cure, but as long as she remains in her current frozen state, she will not die. As fate would have it, a submarine crashes into the area, breaking her cryogenic chamber and threatening to take her life should she not get a necessary blood transfusion/organ transplant from a capable donor. So Fries dons his alter ego disguise of Mr. Freeze, travels to Gotham, where he kidnaps Barbara Gordon (Bergman, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), daughter of the police commissioner (Hastings, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and alias Batgirl, who just happens to be the right blood type. It's up to Batman (Conroy, The Batman Superman Movie) and Robin (Lester) to save the day.
I'll admit, Mr. Freeze has never really been an interesting adversary for Batman, as he isn't quite in step with the rogue's gallery of loopy Batman-hating crackpots, like Joker, Penguin and the Riddler. He's a one-trick pony that has a Freeze-Gun and the ability to tolerate cold temperatures. This release gives him a couple of polar bear sidekicks, who are the only characters even less interesting than Mr. Freeze himself.
The tone is in keeping with the look and style of the animated television series, which itself is modeled after the films -- dark, brooding and distant. The animation is standard fare, not really the stuff you'd expect to see in a theater, but for a video release, it's serviceable. It gets a little clunky at times, such as an unconvincing scene near the beginning showcasing the polar bears swimming, but very awkwardly.
The story itself is simplistic and not particularly compelling. In order to involve Batman, some strange liberties are taken in the story that aren't really logical. For instance, it's not altogether clear why Mr. Freeze needs his donor to come from Gotham City, as there are many closer locales to the Arctic from which he may draw upon donors. Even so, of the eighteen matches for the blood type of Nora, they just so happen to pick Barbara Gordon as the one they go after, which is an odd coincidence, as she is Batgirl. In all the towns in all the world, Mr. Freeze has to pick the woman who is the daughter of the police commissioner who works with his adversary, Batman, and who is dating Batman's sidekick, Robin.
If you can get past the incredulity that these coincidences create, Subzero is still mediocre fare even for those who love the animated Batman releases. As cool as the creators think Mr. Freeze is, the lowest temperature he is able to muster here is tepid at best.
©2014 Vince Leo