Batman: Sub Zero is an animated movie from the makers of Batman the Animated Series (TAS). TAS was produced in the late 90s, and it was the most serious treatment Batman had ever been given outside of comic books up until Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The stories are serious with only slight instances of humor. The production design is dark and stylized. Characters are flawed and multi-layered. Adam West and Joel Schumaker this is not. Camp has no place in this Batman’s world.
This full length animated film (120 minutes) features Mr. Freeze as Batman’s nemesis, and the frozen fiend has never received a better treatment. This Mr. Freeze is defined by grief and love. He is trying to save his wife who years ago contracted a deadly disease. He froze her then cryogenically, and the process led to his own disfigurement. Our story begins this time as a submarine happens upon Freeze’s sub-arctic lair, disrupts his wife’s stasis, and forces the villain to return to Gotham to find an organ donor to save his wife’s life. He can’t wait for someone to die naturally, so naturally, being the villain he is, he opts to help along the process, and Batgirl is a perfect blood and body-type match. Batman to the rescue.
This is a film intended for older children. As I mentioned, the story is dark and serious, and while it is never graphic, it is violent. This Batman pulls no punches. There are as many gunshots and explosions in this film as you find in any John Woo film.
This film excels in its portrayal of Mr. Freeze. His story is compelling because he’s not just trying to steal for thievery’s sake; he’s trying to save his wife. He is a man rocked by grief. Batman, and by extension, this film, is to be commended for treating him with compassion.
As Batman better understands Freeze, he also reaches out to him with grace and forgiveness, showcasing the best of who Batman is. Batman has always been defined by his insistence on doing good even as a “dark knight.” He obeys “rules” of goodness and justice that his opponents do not. In this film though, explanation is given for Batman’s actions. He is not just blindly following some “code of honor.” He genuinely seeks to understand and actually cares about Freeze.
Batman is a superhero indeed, and one we could all do better to be a bit more like as we deal with the grieved people in our lives.