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Boyd Kirkland
Kevin Conroy, Michael Ansara, Loren Lester, Efrem Zimbalist, George Dzundza, Robert Costanzo
Boyd Kirkland, Randy Rogel

Not Rated

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
Portuguese Dolby Surround
English, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Runtime: 67 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 4/23/2002

• “The Hunt For Mr. Freeze” Game
• “Get the Picture: How to Draw Batman”
• Music Montage
• Cast and Crew Information
• Trailers


Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

One could understand if the folks at Warner Bros. wanted to pretend that Mr. Freeze didn’t exist. After all, the character appeared in the last live-action big screen iteration of the Batman series, 1997’s disastrous Batman and Robin. That clunker ended the series as audiences rejected its campiness. It looks like WB will revive live-action Batman before too long, but those incarnations will definitely stray from the gaudy goofiness of the last couple of entries.

While Bats faltered on the big screen, however, the character enjoyed a nice little life as a TV animated character. Those folks even decided to give Mr. Freeze a spotlight via a feature-length program entitled SubZero.

Batman and Mr. Freeze shared top billing for this endeavor. In the show, we find that Mr. Freeze (voiced by Michael Ansara) continues to seek a cure for the terminal disease that afflicts his wife Nora. Aided by sleazy Doctor Belson (George Dzundza), he realizes that the only way to save her at this point depends on an organ transplant. Unfortunately, no available donors can be found from recent deaths, so they decide to take the needed organ from a living subject. That’ll kill the person, but Freeze so desperately wants to save Nora that he doesn’t care about that.

Unfortunately for Freeze, he makes a bad choice of subject. He selects Barbara Gordon (Mary Kay Bergman), daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings), and girlfriend of Dick Grayson (aka Robin, played by Loren Lester). Oh, and Barbara also leads a double life as Batgirl. Of course, Freeze knows none of this, though he probably should have been aware of her father’s status; yeah, he’s from out of the area, but Belson could have pointed out the connection and they should have selected a lower-profile woman to kidnap and kill.

But then we wouldn’t have much of a story, would we? Freeze abducts Barbara during a date with Dick, which sets the Dynamic Duo on their trail. Batman (Kevin Conroy) sets out after Barbara, as they try to rescue her before Freeze cuts her into little pieces.

Unlike pure evil characters such as the Joker, Freeze offers a richer personality. He seems more tragic than most. After all, even before his transformation, Joker was a bad guy, but Freeze’s issues all result from his own deformation and Nora’s disease. He worked in cryogenics, and a mishap caused him to require constant cold.

The story of SubZero really echoes Batman and Robin in many ways. That tale also showed Freeze’s attempts to save Nora, though it added many other elements via different villains. SubZero stayed with a purer focus and didn’t indulge in the extracurriculars; it’s all about Freeze’s quest.

Because of that, SubZero seems more satisfying than Robin, though not to the degree I expected. I’ve enjoyed my experiences with the various DC Comics animated programs, and for the most part, SubZero presents a reasonably compelling piece. However, I think it focuses too strongly on Freeze. We see relatively little of Bats himself. That’s more understandable during the feature films since they’re so packed with guest stars, but considering the smaller focus of SubZero, I feel the considerable absence of the title character appears less acceptable.

Overall, SubZero has its moments, and it provides a reasonably entertaining film. However, it doesn’t stand as one of the better Batman animated programs. It certainly doesn’t compare to something like Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and I didn’t even think it lived up to the mixed bag of Justice League. SubZero offers decent but somewhat bland material.

The DVD Grades: Picture C- / Audio B- / Bonus D

Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. My prior experiences with WB animated programs provided positive visual experiences, but those came to an end with the disappointing picture quality found during SubZero.

Sharpness looked erratic. The image showed moderate softness much of the time, as the program often displayed a mildly gauzy appearance. The picture displayed acceptable crispness much of the time, but the vaguely filmy quality made the movie seem “off” during a lot of the program. Some jagged edges appeared, but moiré effects and edge enhancement provided no issues. However, print flaws were a definite concern. I saw grain, speckles, and general debris. These never appeared horrific, but they seemed excessive for such a recent program.

Colors usually seemed fairly good. At times they appeared somewhat too heavy, especially during the red lighting scenes inside the submarine. The film’s generally dingy look also made the hues seem a bit bland at times. Otherwise, the tones looked reasonably bright and vivid. Black levels seemed acceptably deep and dense, while shadow detail was fairly solid. Some scenes appeared a little too thick, but the program usually showed those situations with good clarity. Parts of SubZero looked quite good, but the mix of softness, print issues and other concerns made it below average as a whole.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of SubZero seemed much stronger than the picture. However, that doesn’t say much, and overall, the mix sounded fairly lackluster. The film featured a decent but unspectacular soundfield. The forward channels demonstrated good stereo presence for the music and also offered a reasonable sense of atmosphere. Elements blended together well and panned nicely. The surrounds contributed general reinforcement of the front speakers but didn’t add much unique audio; they supported the overall impression without much more.

Audio quality appeared positive but somewhat bland. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct without any signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music seemed clear and acceptably rich; low-end response was acceptable but a little flat at times. Similar issues affected the effects. They appeared clean and distinct, but they lacked much punch. The overall impression I received from the track was that it came across as adequate but not anything special.

SubZero includes only a smattering of supplements. Cast and Crew just lists a mix of participants; we find no information about their careers. The Art of Batman provides a 155-second “music montage” of material. We see snippets from the movie intercut with various examples of storyboards, character designs and other conceptual art, all of which appears on top of some aggressive techno-influenced guitar music. Some of the information seems interesting, but the presentation stinks; the drawings fly by too quickly, and the hyperactive music video style display gets irritating quickly.

Get the Picture also suffers from weak implementation. This 50-second piece shows sped-up video of an artist as he draws Batman’s head. Unlike a similar feature on Larryboy, we don’t receive any actual instruction about how to draw the Bat; we just watch the rapid pencil strokes. It’s brief and fairly useless.

Similar comments relate to the Find Mr. Freeze game. This pointless endeavor has you select different items to aid in your “quest”. Correct choices show the appropriate scene from the film. At the end, nothing happens; there’s no reward other than bits of the movie itself. It’s a waste of time.

Lastly, we find some trailers. There’s a teaser for SubZero as well as ads for Return of the Joker, The Batman/Superman Movie, a series of Scooby-Doo DVDs, and a preview of the summer 2002 live action Scooby Doo flick. While I expect the latter to stink, I must admit the trailer’s funny. Note that this area departs from the old DVD; both include different trailers.

Although it improved upon the generally lame live-action film Batman and Robin, Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero seemed somewhat unengaging on its own. The movie featured some good bits, but it focused too heavily on its uncharismatic villain and left the hero out of the loop too much of the time. The DVD provided surprisingly flawed picture quality along with fairly average sound and few extras. Dedicated Bat-fans will probably want to check it out, but others should skip it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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