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|Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero|
|Directed by||Boyd Kirkland|
|Produced by||Boyd Kirkland
|Written by||Boyd Kirkland
by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
Mary Kay Bergman
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
|Music by||Michael McCuistion|
|Edited by||Al Breitenbach|
|Distributed by||Warner Home Video|
Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero is a 1998 direct-to-video superhero animated feature film, the second based on Batman: The Animated Series, serving as a stand-alone sequel to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and starring Kevin Conroy and Michael Ansara, reprising their respective roles from the series as the two title characters. It won the Annie Award for Best Home Video Animation, and was produced by Warner Bros. Animation.
Since his last encounter against Batman, Mr. Freeze has found a home in the Arctic and started a surrogate family with his still cryogenically-encased wife Nora, his adopted Inuit son Koonak, and two pet polar bears, Hotchka and Shaka. Nora's condition begins to rapidly deteriorate due to a submarine accidentally emerging from underwater directly underneath them, shattering her containment vessel. After punishing the submarine crew by freezing them with his trusted freeze gun, Freeze returns to Gotham City with his companions and enlists the help of his old colleague Dr. Gregory Belson to find a cure. Belson determines that Nora needs an organ transplant, but due to her rare blood type there are no suitable donors available. Freeze declares that they will use a live donor, even if it means killing an innocent woman, and bribes Belson into compliance with a promise of gold that will put an end to Belson's own financial problems.
Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) turns out to be a perfect match, and Freeze learns from her roommate that she is at a restaurant with her boyfriend, Dick Grayson (Robin). Freeze attacks the restaurant and kidnaps Barbara. Dick and the Gotham City Police Department give chase, but fail to stop Freeze, who takes her to an abandoned oil rig where he and Belson are hiding. Freeze and Belson explain the situation to Barbara, who claims that she is willing to help Nora for the "blood transfusion", but not at the oil rig, prompting Freeze to keep Barbara imprisoned. Back in Gotham, Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Dick investigate Barbara's kidnapping and learn that Belson is also missing. From a telephone conversation between Belson and his broker, Dean Arbagast, Batman and Robin discover where Freeze has taken both Barbara and Belson, and learn of the organ transplant from a list of equipment Belson left behind.
When the time for the operation comes, Barbara realizes that they are lying when they attempt to put her under anesthesia. She escapes with the help of Koonak. Belson gives pursuit and corners her, before Batman and Robin arrive in the Batwing. Freeze follows, and in the ensuing confrontation, Belson accidentally starts a rapidly spreading fire as Freeze traps Batman and Robin. Freeze demands that Belson perform the operation, despite the oil rig blazing and ready to explode, but Belson betrays Freeze and attempts to escape, only to be killed by falling wreckage. Batman and Robin escape just as Freeze's leg is broken, but he tells Batman to save Nora and Koonak first, along with Barbara. Nora, Koonak and Barbara are put safely aboard the waiting Batwing with Robin piloting it, but despite his efforts, Batman is unable to save Freeze from plummeting into the ocean to his apparent death. Batman makes it back to the Batwing, and they fly away just as the oil rig finally explodes, though Freeze is revealed to have survived and escapes with his polar bears.
Sometime later, Freeze returns with his polar bears to the Arctic to resume his life alone, having frozen his leg in an ice cast. He sees on a television in a research station that while the world believes him dead, Nora has been revived after an organ transplant operation funded by Wayne Enterprises, moving him to tears of joy.
The film was completed in 1997 as a tie-in to Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin (which also featured Mr. Freeze as the main villain and Batgirl as one of the protagonists). Its release date, however, was pushed back to 1998 after the poor reception of Schumacher's film. According to Bruce Timm, Boyd Kirkland and Randy Rogel wrote the film's story without informing him, so when he discovered that Nora Fries was to be brought to life in the film, he was forced to drop the idea of adapt Glen Murakami's story "White Christmas" in The New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights", as it would have been required to have Nora dead, as in the original issue written by Murakami.
SubZero was well received by critics. Based on ten reviews collected on Rotten Tomatoes, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero received a positive "Fresh" score with an average of a 90% approval rating; it was the highest rated direct-to-video Batman film of all time until Batman: Under the Red Hood took over the title with a 100% approval rating.
TV Guide praised the film for being "more enjoyable — and far less campy — than Joel Schumacher's first two live action Batman movies." In addition, the magazine stated that "Though clearly aimed at kids, there's also plenty to keep adult viewers entertained, not the least of which are the amusingly curvaceous drawings of several dishy dames and the exaggerated muscularity of Batman & Robin."
SubZero was originally slated for a release on July 15, 1997, and to be cross-promoted with Planet Hollywood and Six Flags Theme Parks, but due to the poor reception of Batman & Robin it was delayed and did not see release until March 17, 1998.
After the success of this movie, Warner Bros. greenlighted the production of a third installment, entitled Batman: Arkham. Boyd Kirkland, the director of this movie, was attached to write and direct. The film would have Batman and Robin facing off against a collection of Arkham Asylum escapees, in addition to Batman finding himself falling in love with a new love interest, planned to be voiced by Angie Harmon. The main cast of Batman: The Animated Series was attached to reprise their roles. Steven E. Gordon also drew some art concept for the film. However, the movie was finally cancelled in favor of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (which also featured Harmon), while Batman: Arkham eventually became a successful video game series by Rocksteady.
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