Mr. Freeze Deserves To Finally Be In A Great Batman Movie
Mr. Freeze is Batman's most nuanced and tragic villain, but has never gotten a great feature film portrayal.
Among comic book fans, it is generally agreed that Batman has the greatest rogues gallery of all time, arguably rivaled only by those boasted by Spider-Man and the X-Men. However, there is also no roster of great villains that have been so frequently reduced to shallow caricatures, and perhaps none among them more than Victor Fries aka Mr Freeze, Batman’s ice-themed nemesis. With the rich backstory that Mr Freeze has in the greater DC Universe, it is a disgrace that he has never truly had the great Batman movie that he deserves.
Most famously (or infamously), Mr Freeze was one of the primary villains in the disastrous 1997 Joel Schumacher film Batman & Robin, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although the faults of the movie do not need to be recounted at length (two examples: Schwarzenegger never actually filmed any scenes with his ostensible co-stars, using body doubles instead, and the Batsuits were thrown together from leftovers), its greatest was portraying Mr Freeze as a pun-spewing, cackling muscleman instead of the tragic figure he is.
Mr Freeze first appeared in Batman in 1959 as a scientist whose experiments with an ice gun resulted in him being doused in chemicals and turned into a supervillain, in the finest Bat-tradition of chemical contact = evil. But he truly became the character most know him as in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Heart of Ice,” which introduced the idea of Victor Fries as a man obsessed with saving his cryogenically frozen wife Nora from a terminal disease. In this new telling, his criminal enterprises are all with the aim of curing Nora, whether it be robbing banks, hurting innocents, or teaming up with other villains like the Penguin or Poison Ivy.
While Mr Freeze retained this basic idea in Batman & Robin, the movie made nothing but empty gestures to the all-consuming desolation at the center of the character, his drive to do absolutely anything to save the person he loves. In many other stories, someone is a hero because they will stop at nothing for love, but somewhere along the line, Mr Freeze became a villain.
No other Batman villain has the same emotional stakes as Mr Freeze, or motivations other than their own madness or greed. Maybe Two-Face (with his disfigurement and twisted view of justice) comes closest, but even Harvey Dent does not have the same need to help another person that Victor Fries does. That is a character that deserves his own story, not just to be a wise-cracking bully who insists his henchmen sing along to children’s television.
In a way, Mr Freeze and Batman have more in common than not; while Bruce Wayne is driven at all costs and past sanity to help others because of his own terrible loss of loved ones, Victor Fries is consumed by his need to help his wife and prevent a similar loss. That seems like a theme that a great Batman film could examine with depth.
Batman: The Animated Series had a direct-to-DVD film that followed up on “Heart of Ice” with a similar level of nuance, while HBO’s Harley Quinn series portrayed the character as a self-sacrificing husband, but a joke nonetheless. There has never been a feature film representation of the pathos and cruel irony that a man so literally icy and seemingly emotionless has so much depth of feeling within him. If we can get Joker after Joker, multiple Riddlers and Penguins, and an upcoming Two-Face in film, why can we not get a truly great Mr Freeze in a Batman movie?