I’ll cut to the chase...
SUBZERO is head and shoulders better than the live-action BATMAN AND ROBIN (Did I hear a collective "No Sh##!?"). All fans can watch this one without being insulted.
BATMAN AND MR. FREEZE: SUBZERO is a direct-to-video animated continuation of the 90s animated Batman television series. Released in 1998, it was originally intended to go hand-in-hand with the ‘97 release of BATMAN AND ROBIN. You know, release this animated Bat-film with Mr. Freeze to help promote the “big” live-action Bat-film. I guess no one took into account that the “cartoon” would be much, MUCH better than B&R. Whoops!
Rumor has it that Warner Bros. didn’t want an animated “kiddie” film, to eclipse the multimillion dollar BATMAN AND ROBIN -- which they had a huge interest in. So, SUBZERO was, ahem, “pushed back” to 1998 for release.
I purchased this film on VHS as soon as it was released in ‘98. I was able to watch in many, many times over the years, both by myself and with my kids (And no, my daughter did not pour orange juice on this one). I now own it on DVD, although my youngest son who is four still has that ‘ol VHS version in his room. Anyway, it is one of my favorite animated Bat-films. In fact, when I watched if for the first time I kept thinking to myself, “THIS is what B&R should have been!”
SUBZERO is more Mr. Freeze's story than The Batman's. It is the story of Freeze trying to save the life of his wife. Of course things he plans to do to save her are illegal -- like murder. But, you can’t help to feel a bit sorry for this tragic Batman villain. I know I did (I think Freeze is a hell of a character and it sucks that he was realized so poorly in B&R).
Freeze has learned that his wife Nora (Nora is kept alive, but unconscious in some sort of cryogenic
chamber) needs a organ transplant to survive. Through research, Freeze learns that there is a donor in Gotham who matches Nora’s rare blood type. The candidate: None other than Batgirl herself, Barbara Gordon.
Freeze enlists the assistance of Dr. Belson, a former colleague now undergoing financial difficulties. He kidnaps Barbara, taking her to an abandoned oil rig, where he plans to have Belson perform the organ transplant. In response, The Batman and Robin (who is dating Barbara as Dick Grayson) set out looking for their crime-fighting colleague, as a massive police man-hunt for Freeze is taking place.
The dramatic climax occurs between Freeze and Batman and Robin, as the oil rig is going up in flames.
SUBZERO is a well-done Batman film. It is not as good as MASK OF THE PHANTASM or RETURN OF THE JOKER in my opinion, but it is CERTINALY superior to Joel Schumacher‘s BATMAN 4. The only thing that I found a tad -- um -- dumb, was Freeze’s pet polar bears. They did his bidding at command. Uh, OK.
I’ve always wondered what B&R would have been like if they had used the SUBZERO script. Sure, it would have to be expanded to make a 2 hour live-action film. Maybe you simply use Barbara Gordon as, well, Barbara Gordon -- not Batgirl. Expand the Freeze plot to include a flashback origin storyline. Perhaps include a subplot that details the Jim Gordon/Barbara Gordon relationship -- show how close they are -- so the audience has an emotional investment in her kidnapping. You could depict Gordon and The Batman working together trying to save the Commissioner’s daughter. I’m just throwing darts here.
I’d ditch the polar bears though.
Nonetheless, this is a fairly good Bat-flick, and one that I’m giving a grade of B+.