Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero

1998, Movie, NR, 67 mins

Review

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The first ever direct-to-video feature-length production from Warner Bros. Animation, BATMAN & MR. FREEZE: SUBZERO is a very tolerable cartoon that's more enjoyable--and far less campy--than Joel Schumacher's first two live-action BATMAN movies.

Mr. Freeze (voice of Michael Ansara), a former scientist whose experiments with cryogenic technology have transformed him into a super-criminal, comes to Gotham City to try to revive his late wife Nora whom he has kept frozen for the past 15 years. In Gotham, Freeze coerces a doctor into helping him with the operation, but when no dead organ donors are found, Freeze kidnaps Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl (voice of Mary Kay Bergman), who's the daughter of Police Commisioner Gordon (voice of Bob Hastings). Barbara's boyfriend Dick Grayson, aka Robin (voice of Loren Lester), gives chase on a motorcycle but loses them. Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (voice of Kevin Conroy), discovers that Barbara has been kidnapped because her rare blood type matches that of Freeze's wife.

Using the Batwing airplane, Batman and Robin track Freeze down to an abandoned oil derrick in the middle of the ocean and rescue Barbara, but a fuel tank catches on fire and the entire derrick explodes. Batman, Robin, and Barbara get onto the Batwing, but Batman goes back to save Freeze, who has sacrificed himself so that his wife could be taken away by Batman. Freeze is unable to hold onto a rope and falls into the sea. Two weeks later, workers at a US weather station in the Arctic are watching a TV news report about Nora being successfully revived after an operation financed by the Bruce Wayne Foundation. A deformed Mr. Freeze watches the TV report through a window and then disappears into the snowy night with his two polar bear companions.

Fast moving and highly stylized, BATMAN & MR. FREEZE: SUBZERO follows along the lines of the 1990s BATMAN animated TV series, but features a more elaborate production, consisting of an excellent blend of old-fashioned hand-drawings and computerized digital animation. Unlike too many modern cartoons, the computer effects are used judiciously and for action scenes only. The opening underwater submarine scene, the exciting motorcycle chase which turns into a huge multicar pileup, the fireball finale, and shots of the various Bat-vehicles firing up and roaring out of the Batcave are all significantly enhanced by the mixture of traditional animation and computer technology, helping to create a striking 3-D look. The whole film has a sleekly angular look that combines elements of film noir with art deco, in keeping with the visual design of the original cartoon. The characters all have more depth than those in Joel Schumacher's BATMAN films; this is exemplified by the complexity of the relationship between Batman and Mr. Freeze, who's depicted as a tragic figure whose love for his wife drives him to evil. Though clearly aimed at kids, there's also plenty to keep adult viewers entertained, not the least of which are the amusingly curvaceous drawings of several dishy dames and the exaggerated muscularity of Batman and Robin.(Violence.) leave a comment

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