Boyd Kirkland’s “SubZero” stands as not only one of the best animated Batman films of all time, but one of the best Batman films, period. In a time where Warner were handing us goofy films like “Batman Forever,” behind the scenes, Bruce Timm took the material seriously, delivering entertaining mature fare like “SubZero.” Something of a sequel to “Deep Freeze,” Kirkland’s film is also a stark contrast to last year’s “Batman and Harley Quinn,” choosing to expand on the hit episode, rather than repeat the same beats ad nauseum like the latter chose to.
In “SubZero,” Mr. Freeze retreats to the Arctic and plans to save his wife Nora once again when an accident underwater cracks her vessel. Working against time, Freeze kidnaps a very prominent Gotham surgeon, who explains that Nora can be saved by has a rare blood type. With the doctor at his disposal, Freeze finds Barbara Gordon shares the same blood type. Unaware that she’s Batgirl, Freeze hunts for her and eventually kidnaps her bringing her to his home base. Meanwhile, Batman and Barbara’s boyfriend Dick Grayson, known as Robin, go on a mission to find a save her before she’s forced under the knife. Everyone from the original series reprise their role for the film, including Michael Ansara who is as compelling as Mr. Freeze as ever.
There’s a new character added as a means of giving Freeze an anchor in to humanity with Rahi Azizi as his adopted son Koonak, who forms a bond with Barbara. The animation is as vibrant and beautiful as ever, with Timm’s animation style creating a fluid world within Gotham that’s beautiful and menacing. While the movie works on a small run time, it squeezes in a lot of high stakes and interesting character drama. There’s an interesting focus no Freeze’s wrath and what he’ll do to save his wife, all the while there’s already a rift between Dick and Barbara, as they struggle with their own secret identities. “SubZero” is a top notch entry in a long line of Batman animated films, and it’s indicative of the care and craft put in to the Batman name, once upon a time.
For folks looking for a preamble, Warner offers up four episodes from the Mr. Freeze saga, allowing you a great context for “SubZero.” There’s “Heart of Ice” the award winning introduction of Bruce Timm’s radical re-imagining of Mr. Freeze, “Deep Freeze” in where a theme park mogul kidnaps Freeze from his jail and begs him to duplicate his accident on him to slow down his aging. “Cold Comfort” finds a startling new Freeze hell bent on destroying prized possessions in Gotham, revealing something about himself to Batman, Batgirl, and Robin.
The final chapter in Freeze’s saga entitled “Meltdown” finds Freeze taken out of hibernation and given a brand new body by Derek Powers, despite Bruce Wayne’s protests. Hoping on a new lease on life, he’s horrified to find his condition reversing once again. Reliant on the cold to live, he seeks revenge again the villain Blight. Among the featurettes is “Art of Batmam,” and an instructional of “How to Draw Batman.” Finally, there’s a theatrical trailer for “SubZero.”