The second of my reviews of animated Bat-movies for Batmonth! is the second Batman: The Animated Series movie, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero.
The movie takes place in between the first couple seasons and “The New Batman Adventures” where they changed up all the art and character designs. The basic story is this: Mr. Freeze is just relaxing up in the Arctic with a couple polar bears and an Inuit boy, when a sub surfaces, destroying the tank Nora is held in, causing Victor to lose his temper. He heads back to Gotham to see what he can do to save Nora, leading him to a doctor desperate for money. They need someone to donate an organ, but no suitable donors are there, so they decide upon a live donor, deciding upon Barbara Gordon. Everything follows from there, with Mr. Freeze kidnapping Barbara, and Batman and Robin giving chase.
All in all, this was a much better movie than Mask of the Phantasm, at least in my opinion. The main bad guy, Mr. Freeze is really sympathetic and always has been in the DCAU. Even when he’s attacking people, you feel sorry for him, because most of the people he attacks deserve it and you want his wife to be better. In this, he starts out as peaceful and calm and only goes back to Gotham and crime after his wife is almost killed. While it was an accident that the submarine broke his wife’s cryogenic suspension, it still was something that he was trying to avoid by getting away from people. The entire time, Mr. Freeze is only thinking about how to restore his wife. While his methods are extreme and he kidnaps Batgirl and intends to kill her, he isn’t doing it out of spite and he isn’t doing it because it is Batgirl (he doesn’t know, nor does anyone else, it’s just a ridiculous coincidence), he’s doing it because it’s the only way to save his wife.
I haven’t read a lot of DC, but Mr. Freeze seems somewhat different in the DCAU as opposed to the comics. The most recent thing I’ve read with Freeze was Under the Hood, in which he doesn’t seem sympathetic and is mostly just a thug and villain who’s crazy. He kills people without any reason and seems to be amused by the Red Hood, when the Red Hood confronts Freeze about the suitcase with the money they are bringing Hood has just some money and mostly newspaper. He pretty much just seems evil as opposed to his DCAU counterpart who doesn’t seem evil, but merely a victim of circumstance who doesn’t want to hurt people, but will. I like the difference as both are somewhat interesting, but for the purposes of the story, I think the sympathetic one is much better.
What this movie does well is make an interesting story with a great villain. Batman is pretty secondary in the movie, leaving a lot of room open for Mr. Freeze, Batgirl and Robin to shine. Batman shows up and does stuff, but the real main character is Mr. Freeze, who we can’t help but feel sorry for. Batgirl also plays an important role, even while kidnapped without any of her gadgets, trying to make escape attempts and failing eventually only because she was somewhere that is practically impossible to escape from by yourself without any support. Robin (the Dick Grayson Robin) also plays a big role, considering his role both as Robin, the Boy Wonder and as the love interest of Barbara Gordon. Batman is just kind of there as a supporting character, which really is fine and okay.
I mentioned in my review of MotP that Batman needs good villains. Villains are important, but other heroes are also good, as they can provide a different perspective than the generic Batman perspective. Batman’s great, but he’s pretty one-dimensional when it comes down to it. He’s a dark hero, driven by revenge and impossibly good at everything. Robin provides a different perspective, being younger, much brighter and happier, more into acrobatics, and fighting partly because of revenge, but more fighting because he believes it’s right. Batgirl helps by being female, a perspective lacked by the Dynamic Duo and also just that she is related to Commissioner Gordon and is smart, and caring, fighting because she thinks it’s right, but also because it is fun and because she wants to help people. Either way, there are more heroes than just the brooding, depressing Dark Knight.
The villain in a story is also important and Mr. Freeze is great because he’s powerful, cold (ha, ha!) and menacing, but also sympathetic. He’s not a one-dimensional villain, like some other villains are. Instead, you both want him to succeed and also want him to fail, which makes the chase more exciting. In MotP, you had the Phantasm, who is more of a mystery than anything throughout the story and you eventually had the Joker, but the Phantasm was more just a vigilante who killed and that you knew nothing about and the Joker wasn’t in it long enough to really be THE villain. In this, we have Mr. Freeze the entire time, showing how dangerous he is, and also how much he is simply motivated by his wife.
Something amusing about this is the timing of when it came out. They wanted to release it earlier, but another movie with Batman, Robin, Batgirl and Mr. Freeze had been released prior to this, and, well, the less said about Batman and Robin, the better. This ends up being so much better, without dumbing down Bane and adding in Poison Ivy and making ice/cold/snow puns every single time Freeze opens his mouth. Unfortunately, the people making this thought that people wouldn’t want to see another Mr. Freeze Batman movie so soon after the aforementioned disaster. Fortunately, they eventually released it and it is awesome.
In general, this is a Batman movie worth seeing. You have a sympathetic, interesting villain, a decent plot and great characters. Kevin Conroy is Batman for me. The live-action Batmans can’t compete with how good Conroy is. The movie also doesn’t dwell too long on any one part. It’s pretty short all in all, but that just means it doesn’t ever get to the point where it feels forced. The entire movie works well and is just a really good Batman movie. If you haven’t watched it before, I recommend seeing it, especially if you are bitter about Batman and Robin.