Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero aka The Movie that Batman & Robin Should Have Been, feels less like a movie and more like a really long episode of Batman: The Animated Series. There’s nothing quite wrong with that exactly, but after Phantasm it feels small and kind of incomplete. But what I like about it is that it’s one of the few pieces of AU material that really does right by Dick Grayson.
Let me explain. I’m a huge fan of the character (If you’ve ever read this blog before I think I’ve made that abundantly clear), and I think he was pretty much given the shaft in the DCAU. When he isn’t whining or pitching a fit, he’s screwing up a plan. They did give him the dignity of pants though, so that was nice.
SubZero shows off some fun dynamic duo action, and I like the way their more brotherly relationship is shown. It’s always been kind of a cool B:TAS detail that Bruce and Dick are more like an older and younger brother, and Bruce and Tim are more like a father and son. Early on, after the establishment of the bad guy problem (In an attack on his arctic fortress, Mr. Freeze’s beloved Nora is knocked out of her cryo tube and is about to fully die) they take out some guys who robbed a jewelry store. Batman’s “We’ll be watching you scum!” is one of Kevin Conroy’s better deliveries. Then Bruce and Dick are off to a benefit for a children’s hospital. (This kind of sentence would happen in every episode of my imaginary Batman themed teen soap. This is also why I will never actually get to write a Batman themed teen soap.) They’re immediately greeted by Commissioner Gordon, who teases Dick about his relationship with Barbara. (Again, would happen all the stinking time on my show.)
Then we see Babs herself, also taking down a mugger until she realizes that she’s late to the benefit. (Ahem) And when she arrives we get more good natured ribbing from Dad about her and Dick. Later, Dick asks her to go away for the weekend and on their way out, she’s kidnapped by Mr. Freeze, since she’s a match for Nora’s blood type. Batman and Robin go after Freeze to rescue her, and of course she does a good deal to rescue herself.
There’s a reason why I’ve loved SubZero since the first time I watched it folks. Aside from focusing on my second all time favorite super hero relationship (Ollie and Dinah get the number one spot) it features so many of the cool art deco retro future aspects of B:TAS in the best possible way. The soundtrack is all jazz, Dick and Barbara go out on a date to a swing club. (This is both retro and timely, since SubZero came out in 1998, at the waning of the swing revival.) Bruce gets into a fight with Veronica Vreeland for not calling her enough. Bruce and Dick do some actual detective work. It’s a fun little slice of life for characters that I’ve spent so much time with over the past few years.
The voice performances are adequate. Because Batman’s role is pretty minimal, Conroy does well but doesn’t really shine. I’m not a huge fan of Loren Lester’s Dick Grayson. Like I said, I always feel like he’s whining. But probably the most disappointing is Mary Kay Bergman as Barbara. It’s not that she’s bad, persay, she’s just not Tara Strong, who provided her voice all through B:TAS. Her performance is a lot less aggressive and sassy, and it’s jarring to see a different voice coming out of the familiar character.
Of course it’s always great to see a Dini and Timm Mr. Freeze story. Even as a little kid I loved Mr. Freeze, recognizing some of the best story telling out there surrounding his peculiar legend and Michael Ansara does really good work with his stilted and cold voice. Giving him a surrogate son of his own, a little Eskimo boy names Koonak also creates pathos. The B:TAS version of Freeze was always desperate, not evil. Sometimes desperate men do evil things.
Since so many of the early movies are B:TAS tie ins, I’ve seen most of them. I’ve also seen most of the Justice League ones. But still, I’m actually looking forward to leaving Batman behind and getting deeper into the Superman stuff…I don’t know what’s happening to me.
Up next is Batman Beyond: The Return of The Joker, which, you know, Terry, so yay!