ANIMATION REVIEW: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998) Warner Archive Blu-Ray

(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own)

It’s great to have this DC animated movie finally on blu, but what I didn’t expect, and what makes it even better is Warner Brothers decided to add all the Mr. Freeze episodes from Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1993), it’s follow-up iteration, The Adventures Of Batman & Robin (1994-1995, aka Batman: The Animated Series; Season 2), and the two “sequel series,” The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999) and Batman Beyond (1999-2001). What I quickly learned from the listing of the episodes on the back (The Mr. Freeze Saga—In Chronological Order) is Mr. Freeze wasn’t used all that much in Bruce Timm’s shows. His “Saga” in fact, not including this movie, is only four episodes! SubZero takes place between episodes #2 and #3, and in my opinion if you really want to get a measure of who Freeze is I recommend watching the episodes, and the movie, in chronological order.

In Bruce Timm’s universe Freeze falls into that gray area category of villains; sure he’s a villain but there are moments of “placid lucidity” where he seems to display some measure of morality. In “Heart Of Steel,” from Batman: The Animated Series, he’s a scientist by the name of Victor Fries whose wife, Nora, is so terminally ill the only way he could “save her” was to put her in a cryogenic chamber of his own making, but the GothCorp corporate psychopath he was working for didn’t like Fries using their technology for his own, broke into the lab and basically created an accident that gave Fries his own terminal disease of only being able to survive in subarctic temperatures, and killing his wife by setting the lab on fire. Revenge is what motivated Freeze, but Batman stopped him and put him behind bars in Arkham Asylum.

In episode #2, “Deep Freeze,” of The Adventures Of Batman & Robin, another psychopathic billionaire type enters Freeze’s life and kidnaps him from his jail cell. This dude wants Freeze to re-create the accident that made him what he is, because on one level Freeze’s condition allows him to age slower than a normal human, basically making him immortal, and this dude wants that immortality. This is the episode where we find out Nora didn’t die in that fire! She’s still in suspended animation in her cryo-chamber and if Freeze does this, he can have her back. Batman and Robin thwart the billionaire and Freeze’s reluctant partnering with him; in the show’s final moments we see Freeze escape and make his way to the arctic with Nora, and this is where SubZero picks up.

In the movie’s prologue he’s living in a hidden cavern in the Arctic with Nora, living without his specially made suit he needs to survive in any other temperature, and helping a young Eskimo boy survive by bringing him food. This solitude ends when a submarine doing research unknowingly crashes through his lair, smashing Nora’s chamber and nearly killing Freeze. Motivated once again by revenge, he dons his Freeze suit and kills all the researchers and military by freezing them to death with his freeze gun. But now he has a new problem, without the cryo-chamber Nora will die, so he takes her back to Gotham and realizes she can be helped by an organ transplant, but without any dead donor he decides to use a living one. Guess who has the same blood type as his wife? Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl).

He and another doctor kidnap Gordon and it’s up to Batman and Robin to rescue her. The final act takes place on an abandoned oil rig that has some great action animation. It’s in this final act Freeze has is leg broken and the dynamic duo help him to retrieve Nora from the burning bowls of the rig. But an accident occurs that has Freeze looking like he plummets to his death into the burning ocean. Nora on the other hand is back in Gotham, has had her life saving operation, and is now alive and well. Freeze is not dead though, he’s seen being rescued in the waters by his two, trained polar bears he was using to help him.

You could look at the first two episodes as a prologue and the last two episodes as an epilogue. In The New Batman Adventures episode, “Cold Comfort,” Freeze never returned to Gotham to be with Nora, because of his now accelerating “disease,” so she remarried and moved on. Still filled with bitterness at being bound by the cold, he eventually does return and seeks to destroy the things people love the most. Batman eventually learns Freeze’s disease worsened in the interim, so much so his body died and all that remained was his head, which he mounted on a robotic, spider body to get him around when he’s not in his suit. Like before, Batman stops him and he’s seemingly killed, but in the Batman Beyond episode, “Meltdown,” it’s been fifty years since Fries became Freeze, and his head has been kept in storage, so-to-speak, by yet another corporate psycho by the name of Derek Powers, a dude with some serious villain issues of his own. He’s radioactive and needs a new body before his current one melts, so they experiment by retrieving Freeze’s head and giving him a new body by cloning it from his DNA. Finally Freeze can feel, and taste, and enjoy normal temperatures. He’s a different man now, and not the villain he once was, but then Powers and his head scientist, whom Freeze was falling for, betray him. To compound matters his cloned body seems to have now caught the same disease he had and soon he’ll need subarctic temps to continue living. Powers wants to simply biopsy his organs rather than help and this leads Fries back into his revenge persona. He even puts his deteriorating body into one of his infamous Freeze suits and comes back to the facility to seek revenge. New Batman (aka teen Terry McGinnis) is there to tangle with him and try and talk some sense into him, but in the end Freeze commits suicide by staying in the collapsing building.

The most interesting villains are the ones who have motivations that are somewhat understandable, despite the twisted ways they go about exorcising them, Timm and his writers gave their Freeze a very interesting albeit short arc throughout their shows, and one based on the primal premise of those who seek revenge dig two graves, one for their enemies and one for themselves.

Warner Brothers has re-released Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero throughout the years, but this here is the first time they’ve blued it, coming from their MOD Warner Archive label (all blues are pressed and not BD-Rs)! You can buy it on Amazon or at Warner’s store, on March 27th!

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.37.1 high definition full frame—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (stereo)—English SDH subs

Transfer looks great!

Extras included . . .

  • The Mr. Freeze Saga In Chronological Order: “Heart Of Steel,” “Deep Freeze,” “Cold Comfort,” “Meltdown” episodes
  • Art of Batman: Music Montage (2:31)
  • Get the Picture: How to Draw Batman (:51)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)



About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
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