Movie Night: SubZero

MoviesOkay, I don’t know if I should really consider SubZero a “movie” for my “Movie Night” purposes. After all, this was a direct-to-video release, a glorified extension of the Batman animated series (and not even meriting the theatrical release of Mask of the Phantasm). Still, HBO thought enough of it to put it on as a “Feature Presentation,” so I’ll just accept it and move on.

Is it a great movie? No. The animation is television-quality at best, clearly farmed out to the cartoon factories in Asia. The pacing is slow, evidence of poor directorial control. The scale is television-level, not movie-level — a fairly damning indictment for an animated picture, in which one doesn’t have to construct sets or hire extras. And the script could have used quite a bit of punching up — there’s no character development (at least not among the ostensible principals) to speak of; it’s all plot. And at a running time of barely more than an hour, it’s fairly clear that we had some room to work with.

On the other hand, it still kicks the hell out of Batman and Robin, the other “Mister Freeze” movie to come out of the folks at Warner Brothers. While this version certainly has shortcomings, it is so pathetically easy to see how with just a little work — about the same amount that’s done with any big-budget Hollywood feature — this could have revived rather than nearly killed the Batman franchise. As an early-draft script, this had everything the other did not. A credible plot, understandable character motivations, and even action scenes that didn’t depend on checking your brain at the door.

So did I enjoy this tale? Yeah, but not wholeheartedly. I couldn’t help but see where it could have been done better. Maybe that’s just because I’m bitter that they didn’t do better in the live-action arena. Not that Joel Schumacher’s devoid of talent — I really enjoyed Phone Booth, for example — but his sensibility was totally wrong for Batman (I can’t wait to see what Memento director Christopher Nolan can come up with in his version).

Now, Schumacher’s upcoming interpretation of Phantom of the Opera? That I can see working...


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