1998 was some fun times for me. Nerf Wars, invading a friends house and ambushing him when he got home, having all my friends work with me at Dairy Queen and all the antics we had there. One of the things we used to do all the time was gather at one friend or another’s house and watch movies TV, especially during the summer. One day, we decided to watch this movie, as two of my friends are huge Batman fans, and besides, who doesn’t like watching a cartoon movie. Anyways, years later, when I decided to go out and get some of the animated Batman movies on DVD, I made sure to pick up a copy of today’s movie, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero, so I can enjoy both the movie and the memories it invokes.
The plot: Mr. Freeze, after his last encounter with Batman, has escaped up to the Arctic and made a new home for himself; living there with his cyogenically frozen wife Nora, Koonak (an Inuit boy that he has adopted), and Hotchka and Shaka, two polar bears he has trained. After diving into the water with Hotchka and Shaka to get some fish for dinner, Freeze heads to the portion of his lair where his wife’s containment unit stands and stares at her, with Koonak joining him. Suddenly, a submarine surfaces through the floor of the lair, causing Nora’s containment unit to break open while Freeze is buried in the ice. Unaware of what has happened, a research team emerges from the sub and heads out into the ice and when they return, they find the sub and the entire crew completely frozen, just before they end up frozen themselves. Some time later, in Gotham, Batman and Robin manage to capture a pair of jewel thieves before Alfred picks them up so they can attend a charity fundraiser as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. While there, they run into Commissioner Gordon, who teases Dick about his relationship with his daughter Barbara, unaware that at that moment, Barbara, as Batgirl, is stopping some would-be rapists. When Barbara finally arrives at the party, Dick sees her and invites her out to the dance floor. Meanwhile, Dr. Gregory Belson is at the party and talks to his stockbroker, who had warned him about trading on the futures market and says he can’t help him now that he is almost financially ruined. Belson leaves the fundraiser but as he is leaving, the road and area are suddenly covered in snow and ice, causing him to lose control of his car. As he recovers from the wreck, he is approached by Freeze, who was an old colleague of his, and Freeze forces him to come with him. Some time later, Bruce leaves the party only to have his car stall in a massive puddle of water, next to Belson’s abandoned car. Meanwhile, Dick and Barbara head out onto the balcony to talk and Dick invites her out to attend a Jazz festival for the weekend, which Barbara accepts. Elsewhere, Belson examines Nora’s body and tells Freeze that she only has a few weeks to live due to the broken containment unit and the only way to save her life now is with a heart transplant. They head to the hospital but when there is no available organ, due to Nora’s rare blood type, Freeze tells him to find a live donor and they choose Barbara Gordon off of the list. Belson calls Barbara’s dorm room, saying there is an emergency, and her roommate tells him that she is at a restaurant before going out of town. Freeze and his two polar bears show up at the restaurant looking for Barbara, who surrenders so nobody gets hurt. Dick tries to stop Freeze but Freeze is able to get away with Barbara and Dick grabs a motorcycle and chases after them but Freeze uses his cold gun to cause Dick to wreck. Dick calls Bruce and Gordon, who meet him at the hospital where his injuries are being tended too. As Gordon organizes a search for Freeze and Barbara, Bruce waits until the nurse leaves to access the medical records and finds out the connection between Barbara and Freeze. Meanwhile, Barbara comes too and asks what they plan on doing with her. Belson attempts to give her a sedative but she attacks him and Belson chooses to wait and sedate her later but when they come back, they find that Barbara has managed to escape into the air ducts. Freeze and Belson go after her, and when Barbara finds herself in the room with Nora, they explain why she is there. Barbara attempts to escape but finds herself on an oil derrick in the middle of the ocean, with nowhere to go and is eventually recaptured. Back in Gotham, Batman and Robin continue trying to track Freeze and are pointed in the direction of Belson, and Batman remembers Belson’s car being abandoned in the puddle, which he now realizes was melted ice. They search his house, and then pay a visit to his broker for more information when Belson calls his broker. Batman and Robin record the conversation and after returning to the Batcave, Batman realizes where Freeze is holding Barbara. As the prepare to leave, Alfred tells them that the supplies Batman had given him to check on are for an organ transplant, and Batman realizes that the situation is more serious than they first thought. Back on the oil rig, Freeze and Belson go to take Barbara to the lab and prepare her for the surgery but Koonak, who had befriended Barbara, tries to stop them. As Belson shoves Koonak away, Barbara knocks Freeze into the bed holding Nora and is able to escape while he repairs the instruments keeping Nora alive. Belson chases after her and begins firing at her, puncturing some of the oil tanks on the rig. Suddenly, the Batwing appears and Robin jumps down to stop Belson but as he is knocked out, he reflexively fires another shot, which ignites the oil. As the oil rig starts to catch fire and explosions occur, Batman and Robin are forced to deal with Hotchka and Shaka, managing to lure them into jumping over the edge of the oil rig into the water below, and then attempt to rescue Barbara but Freeze shows up and traps them in the control room for the crane. Freeze attempts to recapture Barbara but an explosion pins him under some debris, breaking his leg. Belson attempts to escape as Barbara tries to help freeze, joined by Batman and Robin after they get free. Batman says they have to leave and Freeze says they have to save Nora, with Barbara saying they also need to save Koonak. Freeze uses his freeze gun to put out the fires in the stair well so Barbara can lead Batman to where Nora and Koonak are while Robin gets the Batwing ready for take off, barely managing to get airborne before the landing pad breaks apart, which crashes onto the escaping Belson. Batman and Barbara make it to the lab and rescue Nora and Koonak and try to make it out the stairs but the fires have started burning again and Freeze is unable to help as the fires are starting to overcome him. They head to the elevator and use it to get back onto the deck, with Freeze managing to help them. escape. Batman moves to help him up but Freeze tells him to rescue Nora and Koonak first, then come back for him. Batman does so and they manage to get onto the Batwing before the portion of the rig collapses beneath them, then Batman leaps down to try and rescue Freeze but Freeze ends up falling into the burning water below. As the fire consumes the oil rig, Batman uses a grapple to snag onto the Batwing and Robin flies them to safety, not noticing Hotchka and Shaka swimmign away, with Freeze clinging to their fur. Some time later, at a weather station in the Arctic, the researchers are watching a news story about Nora Fries successful heart transplant, which was funded by Wayne Enterprises. Unnoticed by the researchers, Freeze, with his leg in a ice cast, is watching the report and smiles as he cries tears of joy that his wife is alive, then he walks off to resume his solitary life with Hotchka and Shaka.
Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero met with positive reviews from the critics, holding a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics felt that the animation and story were both good and did a better job with the characters than the live action movie. The movie was actually supposed to be released in July of 1997 as a tie-in to Batman & Robin but due to the poor reception of the live action movie, the movie ended up being pushed back and released in March of 1998. With the success of this movie in video sales and rentals, Warner Bros. green lit a third movie titled Batman: Arkham, where Batman and Robin would face off against a collection of escapees from Arkham Asylum, but the movie ended up being cancelled in favor of Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker but the concept would later be turned into a series of successful video games.
This is a pretty fun movie to watch but I admit that it probably would have been better as a 2-part episode on the cartoon. The acting was good, with the voice actors from the show doing a good job reprising their roles. The story was decent but the plot was so compact and streamlined that made it feel more like a television episode rather than a movie. I know that sometimes less is more but in this case, I feel like a little more with the story could have made this a better movie. The animation was really good and did show some improvements at times from the TV show, especially in a lot of the background animation where they didn’t have to have a lot of action going around. A fun little diversion, and definitely better than Batman & Robin, but there was potential for it to be better.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5