Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero is a full length Batman movie according to the cover. With a mere running time of 66 minutes I think that is a bit overstating it. Yes, there are more movies that are considered full length feature films but only don’t go on for very long after the 60 minute mark like the early Disney movies but in this day and age my personal minimum length is 75 minutes to be considered a full length movie. Though length never has anything to do with quality as Roger Ebert states: No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.
But since this is a direct to home video film, based upon the animated series and originally intended as a tie-in with the live-action Batman & Robin movie I’m considering this nothing more than an extra long episode of the animated series.
The movie revolves around Mr Freeze, as always carrying his cryogenically frozen wife with him but this time she’s in desperate need of an organ transplant due to an accident at his cave on the North Pole. So he dons his suit and goes to Gotham City to find a suitable donor for his wife and finds it in Barbara Gordon. Of course this does not go well with Barbara and her inner circle of father Gordon, Batman and Robin.
Freeze has always been one of the more tragic characters of the Batman series, or at least from the moment the animated series reinvented his backstory and inserted the comatose wife element. They had an award winning episode with it and a decent follow up as well, but you can only go on for so long with him dragging his wife’s body around in search for a cure. This time the vessel that contains her body is damaged and she needs an organ transplant. Mr. Freeze is now so obsessed with her that he will even take someone else’s good life in order to have her survive while being nothing more than a vegetable. This is the point where the character of Freeze reverts to being a madman, rather than just a tragic figure.
Even more than the Mask of Phantasm, Subzero feels like an extended episode. The animation is pretty much of the same style and quality as the series, the only notable element here is usage of cgi especially when machines like the Batwing and a submarine are on screen. Combining this with traditional 2D art this generates some weird moments in the movie like the opening scene when hand drawn polar bears are swimming next to CG fishes and ice caps.
The story is pretty straightforward and has no real twists and turns in it. Batman does rely on some good old detective work to locate Barbara but in the end this nothing more than your average episode, despite it having the length of three episodes. As a tie-in with Batman & Robin the producers don’t use the movie to introduce new characters or even a new villain. While for the fans of the animated series another feature length installment was great after the ending of that series it doesn’t really offer anything new. Not on the characters, not on the story.