There’s a cold wind blowing across Gotham City, and while Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader has been put on ice, we’re at the dawn of a new era thanks to Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl.
Matt Reeves has nabbed keys to the Batmobile, and according to all sources, The Batman could start a new trilogy. Doing what Christopher Nolan famously did with the likes of Bane, could Reeves be destined to defrost Mr. Freeze and give another once laughable villain of 1997’s Batman & Robin a much-needed makeover?
Although Batman is up there with Marvel’s Spider-Man in terms of his colourful rogue’s gallery, the Caped Crusader largely sticks to a tried and tested roster that puts the likes of Joker, Catwoman, and Penguin on the docket. We’ve already seen what Reeves can do with his darker reimagining of the Riddler, and although some will always associate Victor Fries with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campy rendition, he’s long overdue another shot at the limelight.
Reeves’ first time lighting up the Bat-Signal swapped out the usually spandex-clad Riddler for Paul Dano’s Zodiac-inspired serial killer – in keeping with this brooding and brutal Batman. Reworking Mr. Freeze for the Reevesverse, he also needs to put the dark in the Dark Knight. Remember, it wasn’t always ice puns and silver face paint for Mr. Freeze. Following his introduction in 1959 as Mr. Zero, he was renamed and became a mid-tier gimmick villain until Joker seemingly killed him in a 1991 comic.
The Freeze from Joel Schumacher’s box office blunder is largely down to Paul Dini and a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series that gave Victor a suitably sorrowful origin overhaul. Much like The Animated Series, Batman and Robin’s arc involved Victor trying to save the life of wife, Nora. Despite Schumacher’s version involving over the top jewel heists, rubber nipples, and the Bat Card, his Mr. Freeze remained oddly sympathetic. Reeves should be taking notes.
The Animated Series’ version was so beloved, Mr. Freeze’s origin was adopted in the likes of The New 52. Any rendition would be foolish to move too far away from the source material, however, other aspects are harder to adapt.
In terms of other influences, Reeves should look to Rocksteady’s Arkham games. Here, Freeze was also portrayed as a doting husband who simply wanted to cure his wife – albeit with a bit more of a psychotic twist. Warner Bros. Montreal’s Arkham Origins gave the franchise’s Freeze and origin in the form of the ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ DLC, while the Arkham City level where he stalked Batman around the iced GCPD with his arsenal of tech was a pulse-pounding experience.
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Ironically, a poster for The Batman has already queued Mr. Freeze’s arrival. A tattered promo saying “Destroy GothCorp” seemingly referenced Batman: The Animated Series, where Victor created a freeze ray for GothCorp, Nora died at the hands of the weapon, and a villainous Fries emerged from the chaos.
A twist on the character’s modern origin would be to have Nora killed off prior to the main events of the movie, which sends Victor on a destructive path of vengeance against Batman. Could Fries be a brilliant scientist working for GothCorp as a Wayne Enterprises offshoot, only to have his wife’s care fund pulled from under him? Taking this route, you could also lump him together with Dr. Kirk Langstrom to set up an equally grounded take on Man-Bat.
Reeves can take Mr. Freeze’s affliction in any number of ways, and while Batman and Robin has a flimsy premise of him falling into a vat of liquid nitrogen (requiring a suit to survive) it could easily be tweaked. Snowpiercer has shown us realistic ways to present characters hardened by extreme temperatures. Taking this idea one step further, Reeves could even take a leaf out of Star Wars book with Darth Vader and his infamous suit.
A throwaway reference in The Dark Knight Rises about Bruce Wayne coming out of cryo-sleep has kept us wondering what Nolan could’ve done with Mr. Freeze, but that idea was hit by an iceberg thanks to the movie’s definitive end. In some alternate reality, Patrick Stewart was originally sought for Batman and Robin, with Mr. Freeze eventually being rewritten for Arnie. A pre-Professor Xavier Stewart playing the Crown Prince of Chilblains is a tempting offer, but remember he would’ve likely been resigned to the comedic tone of the finished product.
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Now that we’ve found a trajectory for our Mr. Freeze, it’s over to the big question of who should be suiting up alongside Pattinson. Whether Reeves goes with another out-there casting like Dano’s Riddler or someone more mainstream like Colin Farrell’s Penguin, one thing Freeze should keep is a more mature villain going up against RPatz’s junior Caped Crusader.
Reeves could even reunite with War for the Planet of the Apes’ Woody Harrelson. The star may have divided critics as Cletus Kasady in Venom Let there Be Carnage, but let’s look at his terrific turn as the tragic Colonel McCullough in Apes. Another underrated villain actor is Kingsman’s Mark Strong, or what about resident bad guy Giancarlo Esposito? Finally, let’s remember Stanley Tucci turned out an amazingly sinister performance in The Lovely Bones.
For those worried we’re just plucking a villain out of thin air, Reeves himself told Collider he’s interested in a “grounded” Mr. Freeze. Explaining how he wants to avoid the ”fantastical” elements of the character, Reeves added: “Even the idea of something like Mr. Freeze, that such a great story, right? I think there’s actually a grounded version of that story, which could be really powerful and could be really great.”
The Batman is already spinning out into a series of live-action spin-off shows, with the GCPD, Penguin, and now Arkham Aslyum getting their own stories to tell. Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman seems destined for her own outing (be it a series or solo movie), and whether Mr. Freeze is a one-time villain or something more, dare we wish for a full-blown live-action version of The Animated Series’ ‘Heart of Ice’?
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The mere concept of Mr. Freeze entering this world should be enough to heat up any conversation about whether he’s the perfect addition to the inevitable sequel to The Batman… or just another Schwarzenegger in waiting. We’re confident Reeves can deliver an equally “chilling” rendition of the abominable snowman, but then again, the director could go really left field and give us a grounded version of someone like Clock King, Hush, or Great White Shark.
If Reeves wants a bigger challenge, a realistic Condiment King would be something wild – come on, make it happen. In the meantime, we’ll put the idea of Mr. Freeze popping up in The Batman 2 back in the chiller.
The Batman is in theatres now.