Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero
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Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero is a 1998 direct-to-video superhero animated feature film, the second based on Batman: The Animated Series, serving as a stand-alone sequel to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and starring Kevin Conroy and Michael Ansara, reprising their respective roles from the series as the two title characters. It was produced by Warner Bros. Animation and animated overseas by Koko Enterprises and Dong Yang Animation in South Korea. The film won the Annie Award for Best Home Video Animation.
|Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero|
|Directed by||Boyd Kirkland|
|Produced by||Boyd Kirkland|
|Written by||Boyd Kirkland|
|Based on||Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane|
|Music by||Michael McCuistion|
|Edited by||Al Breitenbach|
|Distributed by||Warner Home Video|
Since his last encounter against Batman, Mr. Freeze has found himself a home in the Arctic and started a surrogate family with his still cryogenically-encased wife Nora, his newly adopted Inuit son Koonak, and a pair of pet polar bears, Notchka and Shaka. Then one day, a submarine emerges from underwater through the floor of their cave-turned-home, shattering Nora's containment vessel, after which her condition begins rapidly deteriorating. After punishing the submarine crew, innocently unaware of their mistake, by freezing them with his trusted freeze gun, Freeze returns to Gotham City with his companions to enlist his old colleague Dr. Gregory Belson to help find a cure. Belson determines that Nora needs an organ transplant, but due to her rare blood type there are no suitable donors available to them. Freeze declares they will use a live donor, even if it means killing an innocent person, and bribes Belson into compliance with a promise of gold that will put an end to Belson's own financial problems.
Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) turns out to be a perfect match, and Freeze learns from a telephone conversation with her roommate that she is at a restaurant with her boyfriend, Dick Grayson (Robin). Freeze attacks the restaurant and kidnaps Barbara. Dick and the Gotham City Police Department give chase, but fail to stop Freeze, who takes her to an abandoned oil rig where he and Belson are hiding. Freeze and Belson explain the situation to Barbara, who agrees to helping Nora with the "blood transfusion", but not at the oil rig, prompting Freeze to keep Barbara imprisoned. Back in Gotham, Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Dick investigate Barbara's kidnapping, leading them to figure out Belson is with Freeze. The search for answers leads Batman and Robin to Belson's broker, Dean Arbagast, and find out from a phone conversation between Dean and Belson where Freeze has taken both Barbara and Belson. They also figure out Freeze's plan from a list of equipment used for an organ transplant Belson left behind.
When the time for the operation comes, Barbara realizes Freeze and Belson have been lying to her when they attempt to put her under anesthesia. She escapes with the help of Koonak. Belson gives pursuit and corners her, just before Batman and Robin arrive in the Batwing. Freeze follows, and in the ensuing confrontation, Belson accidentally starts a rapidly spreading fire as Freeze traps Batman and Robin. Freeze orders Belson to perform the operation, despite the oil rig now completely ablaze, falling apart and on the verge of exploding, but Belson betrays Freeze and attempts to escape, only to be killed by falling wreckage. Batman and Robin escape just as Freeze's leg is broken, but he tells Batman to save Nora and Koonak first, along with Barbara. Batman and Barbara get Nora and Koonak to the waiting Batwing with Robin piloting it, and Nora, Koonak and Barbara are all put safely on board, but despite his efforts, Batman is unable to save Freeze from plummeting into the ocean, to his apparent death. Batman makes it back to the Batwing, and they fly away, just before the oil rig finally explodes, although Freeze is revealed to have survived and escapes with his polar bears.
Sometime later, Freeze returns with his polar bears to the Arctic to resume his life alone, having frozen his leg in an ice cast. He sees on a television in a research station that while the world believes him dead, Nora has been revived after an organ transplant operation funded by Wayne Enterprises, moving him to tears of joy; he then walks away peacefully with his polar bears.
- Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne / Batman
- Michael Ansara as Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze
- Loren Lester as Dick Grayson / Robin
- Mary Kay Bergman as Barbara Gordon / Batgirl
- Rahi Azizi as Koonak
- Robert Costanzo as Detective Harvey Bullock
- Mari Devon as Summer Gleeson
- George Dzundza as Dr. Gregory Belson
- Bob Hastings as Commissioner James Gordon
- Marilu Henner as Veronica Vreeland
- Dean Jones as Dean Arbagast
- Liane Schirmer as Lieutenant Renee Montoya
- Frank Welker as Hotchka and Shaka (uncredited)
- Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth
- Lauren Tom as Mariko
The film was completed in 1997 as a tie-in to Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin (which also featured Mr. Freeze as the main villain and Batgirl as one of the protagonists). Its release date, however, was pushed back to 1998 after the poor reception of Schumacher's film. According to Bruce Timm, Boyd Kirkland and Randy Rogel wrote the film's story without informing him, so when he discovered that Nora Fries was to be brought to life in the film, he was forced to drop the idea of adapting Glen Murakami's story "White Christmas" in The New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights", as it would have been required to have Nora dead, as in the original issue written by Murakami.
SubZero was well received by critics. Based on 13 reviews collected on Rotten Tomatoes, 92% of critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 6.66/10; it was the highest rated direct-to-video Batman film of all time until Batman: Under the Red Hood took over the title with a 100% approval rating.
TV Guide praised the film for being "more enjoyable — and far less campy — than Joel Schumacher's first two live action Batman movies." In addition, the magazine stated that "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 & Robin."
SubZero was originally slated for a release on July 15, 1997, and to be cross-promoted with Planet Hollywood and Six Flags Theme Parks, but due to the poor reception of Batman & Robin it was delayed and did not see release until March 17, 1998.
The film was included in the 2018 Blu-ray release of Batman The Complete Animated Series box set.
After the success of this movie, Warner Bros. greenlit the production of a third installment, entitled Batman: Arkham. Boyd Kirkland, the director of this movie, was attached to write and direct. The film would have Batman and Robin facing off against a collection of Arkham Asylum escapees, in addition to Batman finding himself falling in love with a new love interest, planned to be voiced by Angie Harmon. The main cast of Batman: The Animated Series was attached to reprise their roles. Steven E. Gordon also drew some art concept for the film. However, the movie was finally cancelled in favor of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (which also featured Harmon), while Batman: Arkham eventually became the name of a successful video game series by Rocksteady Studios.
- "Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- TV Guide, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero - Review.
- Chris E. Hayner (November 14, 2018). "Batman: The Animated Series Blu-Ray Review: The Box Set We Deserve". GameSpot. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
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