Batman: Sub Zero (1998) *****
Victor Fries will go to any lengths to save his wife.
After a string of really disappointing live-action films we get a good (direct-to-dvd) feature in this one. Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze has it all over Arnie, but then the writing and everything else in this film has it all over the '90's live-action Batman movies.
Victor Fries isn't a joke in this story. Here he's still a villain, but a tragic one. He desperately loves his wife---stricken with a terminal illness---and Victor will go to any lengths to save her, including sacrificing Barbara Gordon for an organ transfusion.
There's some pretty dark stuff going on in this and I credit the producers for not shying away from it as it makes the story all the more compelling.
One could argue that the pyrotechnics are a bit(!) over-the-top, but no more so than whats done in a lot of live-action films, particularly of the superhero genre. But in counterpoint like The Mask Of The Phantasm
released five years earlier this is a well thought out story with lots of nice touches.
This feature is based, of course, on the (deservedly) well regarded Batman
TAS since 1992. In extent I'd argue that Batman has generally been done better in animation until the Nolan live-action films. Even then I'd say the occasional direct-to-video animated Batman features are pretty much on par with the Nolan films. They're each different and unique to each, but not really that far apart in overall sensibility.