This is the eighth part in our Batman Week series, where we review a series of Batman films before reviewing the video-game Batman: Arkham Knight on 27th June. To check the schedule or read previous reviews, click here.
(C) Warner Bros.
In Batman and Mr Freeze: SubZero – a feature length installment of Batman: The Animated Series – Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Robin (Loren Lester) have to save Barbra Gordon/Batgirl (Mary Kay Bergman) from the clutches of the villainous Mr Freeze (Michael Ansara).
Unlike the previous Batman: TAS spin-off film Mask of the Phantasm, SubZero‘s plot is comparatively weaker, but not bad at by any stretch of the imagination. Phantasm had great character development for not only Bruce Wayne himself, but also a lot of the characters around him. SubZero does have character development, but primarily for the eponymous villain, Mr Freeze, and here it is very well done. Good scenes at the start introduce the poignant relationship between Freeze and his wife Nora, and his character is very well-developed and fleshed out, which makes you care for him and – to an extent – understand why he feels the need to commit crimes. There are other relationships built up throughout the film – primarily between Dick Grayson and Barbra Gordon – and these are also handled greatly. Although the depth of the characters is not on a par with Phantasm, it’s still pretty good here, and you do feel for the characters when the more emotional moments occur in this hour-long adventure. The plot is rather coincidental however, and although it isn’t enough to drag it down, does make the events of the film a lot less believable.
The characters in SubZero are handled confidently and are developed well. Kevin Conroy’s Batman is as fantastic as ever, but unlike Phantasm, the focus is not on the Caped Crusader, but rather Mr Freeze. Note that this film came out just a year after the dreadful Batman and Robin, which massacred Mr Freeze’s character, so it shows the bravery and conviction of the makers that they decided to go ahead with it anyway, and they certainly pull the character off here. Freeze’s suit is well-designed and interesting, and his motivations plausible and relatively understandable. However, we don’t know the actual reason why Freeze chose to don the suit and pick up the ice-gun, and although quite picky, is still a key factor of the character’s psyche. Other characters such as Robin and Batgirl are also fantastically designed, as in TAS, and all get some moments to shine and develop, but this film really is most effective in conjunction with the cartoon series, otherwise it may be slightly overwhelming for new viewers.
From a design and technical standpoint, the film is also good. Unlike Phantasm, Danny Elfman’s iconic score returns – albeit briefly – and it was great to hear it, especially in unison with the interesting opening sequence. The animation retains mostly the same beats as TAS as in it uses a well-drawn and stylistic 2D animation style, but deviates occasionally with a 3D design for some vehicles and scenes. When these 3D events did arise, it felt very out of place since the technology didn’t fit in with the feel of the show, and comes across not only as dated but also rather jarring. The speech volume is occasionally poorly-balanced with the music, so at times dialogue is drowned out, which viewers can’t afford to miss since this is quite story-heavy and character driven. However, direction is good in all quarters, with the action scenes handled well, and it was pleasant to see some more metaphorical shots thrown in as well, providing the more conscientious viewer with some interesting imagery to think about.
Batman and Mr Freeze – SubZero is, although not as good as Mask of the Phantasm, a pretty great animated Batman adventure, with plenty of character development all-around, good action scenes, clever music and interesting cinematography, although is let down by some jarring animation and lack of depth for certain elements of some characters, however I recommend watching it nonetheless. Another fantastic Batman adventure.
I give Batman and Mr Freeze – SubZero 7.5 out of 10.