Sunday, November 27, 2016

Disney’s Pocahontas (1995) (Movie Review)

     It’s Thanksgiving 2016, plus with Disney’s “Moana” premiering this month and featuring their first ethnic Princess sense Pocahontas, I felt that the time was right to look back, and do a review of one of my favorite child hood Disney movies. So let’s rewind back to 1995, with the premier of Disney’s 33rd fully animated feature film “Pocahontas”. This is a movie I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time, however, this review will be a little more challenging as the film itself is one of the more “controversial” of their animated line up. Actually, “Pocahontas” is probably Disney’s most controversial movie sense “Song of the South” from back in 1946. So in this review I’ll cover what the film as a whole means for me personally, but I’ll also look at the controversies surrounding the film to see what criticisms are legit and fair against the movie ... which in truth will be most of them, or maybe even all of them.

     Set in 1607, this movie tells a mostly fictionalized story of how the Native American Princess came into contact with the English Settlers lead by explorer John Smith and the greedy Governor Ratcliffe. The settlers aim to strip mine the land of its most valuable resources, putting them at odds with the Powhatan tribe who live off the land. Thus, the conflicts between the two cultures ensue, and war is declared. Caught in the middle of the turmoil are the Indian Princess Pocahontas and the English Settler John Smith who have both fallen in love, and aim to use their new found relationship as a stepping-stone to bring peace between their two diverse cultures. In short, this is Disney’s animated equivalent of “Romeo and Juliet” or “West Side Story”, just with a Native American backdrop. I’ll definitely talk about the controversy of this later in my review, but for now I want to talk about the contents of what the film has to offer on its own, as it has a lot of highlights.

      First of all, as far as animation is concerned ... the movie is gorgeous. To this day, I think “Pocahontas” is one of the best looking animated movies I’ve ever seen. The warm colors, the lighting, the detailed backdrops, the line work ... it’s just a firkin work of art, and a real feast for the eye. The animators were clearly inspired by early Disney films like “Sleeping Beauty” to utilize a lot of “line work” for the overall design, but the colors are so absorbing that you hardly even notice. Also, even though this isn’t a fantasy, the forest setting still has this really magical atmosphere, and the overall pacing of the movie allows me to feel completely submersed in this world. Beyond the arresting visuals, the overall direction and transition of select moments are beautifully shot with an artistic narrative and rhythm. For example, one of my favorite scenes is the build up to when Pocahontas first meets John Smith by the waterfall. This is a long segment with no dialogue at all, yet the scene conveys everything beautifully through the character animation and direction. You could probably watch this film on mute and it would still be a satisfying experience, although, that would deprive you of the films next be highlight. 

    For all the movies short comings, “Pocahontas” is still undeniably one of Disney’s best musicals, probably among my top three favorites for sure. The other two would have to be “Beauty and the Beast” and “Frozen” respectively. Each song complements the story, and individually their all very memorable. The song “Just around the Riverbend” is still a personal favorite of mine, with its engaging musical rhythm and inspiring theme of daring to explore the unknown.
I’ve always liked the opening song “Virginia Company” paired with “Steady as the Beating Drum”, as they introduce us to both cultures in visual detail. Even Alan Menken’s instrumental track is fantastic to listen to, and rightfully won the Academy Award for best original score. The villain song titled “Savages” is one of the greatest to ever come from Disney, or any musical for that matter. It doesn’t revolve around an individual “bad guy”, but a collected hatred among two diverse classes, which makes it very unique. While the lyrics in the song are a little hockey, the track itself is still riveting and the visual style of the song is once again sensational. I suppose Governor Ratcliffe’s actual villain song titled "Mine, Mine, Mine" is also kind of catchy too. Of course the most famous song of all is the Oscar winning “Colors of the Wind”, which despite being a little preachy is still one of Disney’s great classic songs. My personal favorite song is the romantic number between our two heroes titled “If I Never Knew You”. This song was deleted from the original theatrical film version, but it was edited back in for the 10th anniversary DVD. Ignoring the fact that Pocahontas and John Smith were never one of my favorite Disney couples, this song is still a personal favorite. The melody is beautiful, and it’s just a great song revolving around what life would be like without someone you loved.

       With that said, let’s talk about Pocahontas’s relationship with John Smith, which unfortunately is not that great. The two have some terrific individual scenes together like their aforementioned song or when the two first meet, but as a whole, they really don’t have much chemistry. Let me put it this way, I at least understand why John Smith would fall in love with her, as she opened his mind and life to new perspectives that in hindsight made him a better man. On the flip side, I never understood why Pocahontas would fall in love with him. She just dose because it’s a Disney movie, and they need to be a couple. To be honest, I thought Pocahontas had a lot more chemistry with this one other Indian girl who’s her best friend, but don’t read too much into that. John Smith is also kind of a typical bland hero, but voiced relatively well by Mel Gibson. In the plus column, I do like the majority of the characters in this film. I like those two silly English guys, Chief Powhatan is a fine father character, and one of the settlers is voiced by a young Christian Bale, which is very amusing.

      I also like the mystical Grandmother Willow, who’s a tree that acts as Pocahontas’s spiritual guide. I’ll admit, this character should have only existed in the mind of Pocahontas herself. The concept of a magic tree coming to life on its own is pretty silly, at least when set in a historical time period. Of course I also love the cute animal characters, and I think it was a smart move to keep them mute. Some have argued that do to their lack of speech, the animals don’t contribute anything aside from some visual comedy. Honestly, with the exception of the humming bird Flit, I think the animals do contribute something to the film in their own simplistic way. The raccoon Meeko provides Pocahontas with the compass that becomes her figurative “spinning arrow”, pointing her on the path. The dog Percy was once Governor Ratcliffe’s nasty pet, but makes a full reformation by the end of the film, which is the first sign of making peace between the two groups. Actually, this is something I especially loved as a kid. Usually the evil pet is there to just be an evil pet that gets his comeuppance, but seeing Percy form a friendship with the other animals always felt special to me.  

      In general, I like all the characters in this film, that is with the one exception of ... the villain. While Governor Ratcliffe has always stuck with me as a memorable Disney antagonist, largely thanks to his design, he's unfortunately the catalyst for many of the films missteps. He’s obviously designed and marketed like any classic Disney villain, but without either the excitement or even the charm of other bad guys. I can’t say that he’s completely boring or even devoid of menace, but his motivations are as generic as they get, and there’s a noticeable lack of conflict between him and our lead hero. Yeah, something I never noticed as a kid is that Pocahontas and Governor Ratcliffe never share a single scene together, and it’s always a highlight of any Disney movie to see the hero work off the villain. In my opinion, there’s one thing that could have completely redeemed this character and made him one of the greatest villains in the whole Disney roaster. He and John Smith should have been best friends at the beginning of the film, and both with the same nefarious goals. That way John Smiths reformation and union with Pocahontas would have been all the more powerful, and his rivalry with Ratcliffe would have been far more conflicting. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, leaving Governor Ratcliffe at the short end with Disney’s roster of classic villains.

      Now let’s finally talk about our leading Princess Pocahontas as she is the key component of the film. Personally, she’s always been one of my favorite Disney characters, and I think one of the best Princesses from their animated roster. Like Belle before her, this is a princess who breaks away from the traditional stereotypes of the past, is stronger, high spirited and has a touching outlook on life that we as a culture can use to make the world a better place. Having said that ... Pocahontas is admittedly not without some set-backs. She lacks the same personality that made other Princesses fun to watch, and I can’t help but feel that there’s more to this character that the movie is glancing over. The film is so focused on her as a romantic interest that we don’t see enough of her diplomatic side, or even her charitable side, which both would have been very meaningful to see more of. On a side note, I know historically her real name is Matoaka, and Pocahontas was just a nickname given to her by her father, which the movie ignores. Now the translation of the name Pocahontas has actually taken on several different meanings, but the most common translation I’ve heard is “Little Mischief”, which I think is kind of cute. I should also note that during this point in Native American history, Pocahontas was closer to the age of 10 or 12, which puts her at odds with John Smith who was closer to 30.

       I suppose it’s time to address the elephant in the room, which is the historical and cultural presentation of the film. I mean, I’m no historian or anything, so I won’t pretend to know all the facts, but I can take a wild guess that this film is largely inaccurate to the historical events. Now even before this movie, story tellers have romanticized and embellished the supposed “historical friendship” between the two, to a point where it’s unintentionally become the early American equivalent of “Romeo and Juliet”, and that’s obviously what Disney is trying to capitalize on with this film. Disney’s “Pocahontas” is historical fiction, and this is where I feel the negatives aimed at the movie are justified. 
Not every film has to be perfectly accurate to real events, the 1984 picture “Amadeus” for example is a motion picture masterpiece, despite taking some liberties with its historical backdrop. However, there are limits to how many liberties a film can take. I believe it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon”, and in that logic is where I think we might get a little careless. Obviously there will always be historical events that are never proven 100%, but it is our responsibility to get the facts down as accurately and as respectfully possible. If Disney wants to do their own unique spin on a fairytale, that’s perfectly fine, but when it comes to a historical culture, they need to be very ... VERY CARFULL with the presentation. While I’m sure everyone at Disney had perfectly good intentions with this movie, I don’t think anyone stopped to think if what they were doing might come off as offensive to another culture. Case in point, the Indian’s portrayed in this film can create magic visions in fire places, which are these huge, ghostly spectacles. This feels less like the product of a real Native American village, and is obviously more like Disney magic thrown in just because it’s a Disney movie. This just feels like an immature presentation of a real Native Culture, and it puts this movie in a really bad position.

       Putting aside the cultural and historical problems, others have criticized this movie for being largely uneventful and mostly boring. Now this is all subject to personal taste, because I remember watching this film a lot as a kid, and enjoying it every bit as much as “Aladdin”, “The Little Mermaid” and so forth. Even to this day, I still enjoy watching the film. I guise because I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and I still think it’s cool to see Disney do their own animated equivalent of “West Side Story” in a different setting. However, I’ll admit, it doesn’t have the same “fun factor” as other Disney movies. The pacing is slower, the comedy is subdued, and there isn’t much action. Also, “Pocahontas” came out right in the middle of the Disney Renascence, a time in which the studio was consistently turning out some of their biggest and best work. I think the big problem was that this film came off the heels of “The Lion King”, which was a monumental juggernaut in children’s entertainment, and it made “Pocahontas” look pathetic by comparison. However, I do think this movie was a mostly admirable effort to speak to both kids and adults equally. The execution wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but their hearts were in the right place. The various morals in the movie are still relevant to this day, and even if it’s a recycled message I still can’t fault the movie for conveying genuinely good values to the viewer.

      Now before I wrap up this overly long review of mine, I have to talk about the ending, because personally I think this is one of the greatest endings of any Disney film. There’s no big climax, no over blown action spectacle, and it doesn’t resolve in a traditional happy ending. We have the two sides march into battle, and just before the slaughter ensues, Pocahontas makes a daring sacrifice to rescue John Smith, which in turn brings peace to the two factions. The animation during this scene once again is incredible, as the backdrop begins as a rising sun, allowing for the color red to take up most of the imagery, and emphasizes the heated turmoil between both sides.
Then when Pocahontas steps in and mediates peace between the two, the sun has fully risen providing cooler and lighter coolers, as the characters have equally reached a calm state. The downside is that John finds himself at the receiving end of a bullet, and is forced to leave. Now most Disney movies end with our main couple together, but this is more like the “Casablanca” of Disney films in which the couple is forced to go separate ways. There's still the lingering hope that one day they’ll meet again, but even if they don’t, we still have the satisfaction that both their lives are now more complete thanks to the experience they shared together. So it’s a fine mix of beauty and sorrow, plus the whole ending scene is just gorgeously shot, and it leaves me with chills every time I see it. Also in comparison to both “West Side Story” and “Romeo and Juliet”, I felt that this relationship was more beneficial to both warring parties, where as in the former two stories, I felt that the couple accomplished nothing in terms of bringing the divided groups together. P.S. – “I love “West Side Story”, and it is obviously the superior musical by comparison”.

       So with all that said, is Disney’s “Pocahontas” a good movie ... probably not. Both the cultural and historical flaws are very serious negatives, the story is based on familiarities that can make the experience boring for some viewers, the romance at the center point of the film feels generic, the villain is average, and even the message is a little too familiar for the movie to really leave an impact. Now having said all that, I still can’t bring myself to say that I don’t like this movie. Despite its many flaws, Disney’s “Pocahontas” is still personally one of my top 10 favorite animated films the studio has produced. I still love the characters, I love the animation, I love the music, I love the atmosphere, I love the setting, on general principle I love the morals, and the film to this day still gets me in the warm “feels” every time I watch it. While I regrettably can’t recommend “Pocahontas” as easily as other animated films, I’m still glad I grew up with it, and I’m glad it’s held up for me after all these years. Now out of respect, I’m going to do my best to learn my history and not rely on what a film says ... as we all should. Also, sense I can't properly recommend “Pocahontas”, I can absolutely recommend Disney's "Moana". Yeah, that movie I briefly mentioned in the into, I'm bringing it back in the outro, Why, because if you are going to watch a Disney movie this Thanksgiving that revolves around an ethnic Disney Princess, "Moana" is the one I'd recommend first. As for “Pocahontas”, I know objectively, this film shouldn’t get more then 2 ½ stars out of 5, but I usually rate films based on what they do for me personally, so with that said ...

I give Disney’s “Pocahontas” ... 4 stars out of 5.  

And Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!     


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Batman: The Animated Series (My Top 10 Favorite Episodes)

When it comes to classic superheroes, I love me some Batman, which is why it pains me to confess that I didn’t grow up with the original “Batman: The Animated Series” from the 90’s. Once in a while I’d catch an episode, but I never watched it regularly like other shows I grew up with, and didn’t even see it all the way through until I graduated from High School. Thankfully, the shows reputation is well deserved because it’s an awesome series, and dose Batman more justice then the majority of his live action movies. If your also a Batman fan, but missed your chance to watch this great series, here are some episodes that I highly recommend looking into. For this post I’ll be counting down my personal top 10 favorite episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series”, as well as episodes from “The New Batman Adventures” as it’s technically still part of the same series. My only condition is that I won’t be including any of the animated movies based on this show like “Mask of the Phantasm” or “Subzero”, those are for a different list all together. Finally, in order to talk about why these episodes are so great, I’ll have to go into some serious detail, so consider this a spoiler warning. With that said, here are my personal top 10 favorite episodes from “Batman: The Animated Series”.  

#10 Nothing to Fear 

Kicking off my countdown is an episode that’s really under looked, yet I’ve always regarded it as a classic. This is actually one of the phew episodes I saw as a kid, and I surprisingly remembered it over the years. Batman is one of those hero’s that seems utterly fearless, but even the Dark Knight himself has his own nightmares to face. His greatest fear of all revolves around his late parents, and whether or not they see him as a failure, or if they’d be disappointed in the vigilante he’s become. When a new villain called the Scarecrow brings everyone’s greatest fears to life, Batman must face the greatest terrors of his mind ... “if my parents saw me now, what would they think of me”. Rather than go for the clich├ęd horror, this episode brilliantly focuses on fear that’s more emotionally impactful to the human condition. Subsequently, it makes Batman feel all the more human, and I think many people can relate to this on some level. I also think the visuals in this episode are some of the most memorable in the series. On a side note, I don’t think Scarecrow ever got any more thrilling as a villain than he did in this introduction episode. Something about the simplicity of his design always stuck with me, but unfortunately he was never designed like this again in the series. Finally, this episode features one of my all time favorite Batman moments, when our hero says his classic line ... “I am vengeance, I am the night, I AM BATMAN!”     

#9 Tyger, Tyger 

At this point in the show, Cat-Woman has given up her life of crime and has chosen a quiet life. However, trouble still seems to find her even when trying to do something simple like attending a dinner date with Bruce Wayne. Case in point for this episode, in which she’s kidnapped by a mad scientist, whisked away to a secluded island, and mutated into a literal Cat-Monster with a humanoid body. Batman naturally is on the trail to rescue her, but soon finds himself being hunted by another humanoid cat-monster who calls himself Tygrus. This is one of those special episodes that explores the sole of a monster, while bringing the work of literature into the fold, and that’s always a plus in my book. This episode makes direct reference to the work of William Blake, specifically his 1794 poem “The Tyger”. Much like its literary source material, this episode focuses on themes of “what makes a creature evil, is it by design or natural instinct”. On a side note, it’s cool to see Cat-Woman take on the form of a real cat, as she’s been denying her humanity throughout the majority of the show. This makes it all the more satisfying to see her choose humanity over bestiality. The action is this episode is very exciting, it’s also an intriguing character study of a monster, and I really like that it brings awareness to the classic work of a poet.

#8 Growing Pains 

In animated programs, you commonly expect the hero to always save the day, and end everything on a positive note. However, in the case of Batman ... well, sometimes there just isn’t a happy ending at all. Personally, I think one of the most daring, memorable, and all around tragic episodes is this Robin centered episode from the final season titled “Growing Pains”. During patrol, Robin comes across a frightened little girl whose lost her memory, and is being chased by a shady fellow who claims to be her father. Robin naturally comes to her defense, and is determined to help this girl rediscover her past. Along the journey a sweet little relationship blooms between the two. Unfortunately the truth is revealed, and it turns out this little girl isn’t a real child at all. She’s a clay puppet created by Batman’s deadly shape-shifting enemy Clayface. During a tense battle, the girl rescues Robin, but at the cost of her own life. While the child technically wasn’t alive to begin with, she was real for Robin, and still the image of this sweet little girl melting away at the hands of Clayface is quiet horrific. Outside of the heartbreaking ending, this episode also features some some depressing elements of poverty. The most notable being when Robin finds a small group of homeless children living under a pile of rocks. That’s not the kind of content you typically get in a children’s program, but hay, that’s why this show is so great. It takes chances, and isn’t afraid to hit the kids with the drama. While the suspension of disbelief is very high in this episode, it’s still one of the more touching, yet darker Batman outings.     

#7 Girls Night Out 

Not every great episode of Batman has to be dark and tragic, and sometimes a light hearted excursion is very welcome. My favorite “fun” episode comes in the form of a crossover between Batgirl and Super-Girl titled “Girls Night Out”. When the Superman villain called Live Wire escapes from prison, she teams up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn to have a destructively fun night on the town. With both Batman and Superman out on missions, it’s up to Batgirl and Super-Girl to take action. Let’s face it, Batman and Superman have had so many crossovers that the novelty has all but warn out. On the flip side, it’s just a real treat for both of these iconic female sidekicks to team up. Also, unlike their superiors, Batgirl and Super-Girl get along great, and honestly make for a really cute pair of friends. It’s also fun watching the villains work off each other in this episode, and I like how their just out enjoying themselves, not hatching any evil scheme. There’s some funny lines, sweet action, and it’s just a really cute little episode.  

#6 House and Garden 

Just about every villain from the series has a reformation episode of shorts where they seem to have given up their life of crime and are committed to starting a normal life. Personally, I think the most memorable and impactful of this “reformed villain” episodes was this Poison Ivy episode titled “House and Garden”. Here’s the set up, some nasty plant creatures are attacking people all over town and Poison Ivy is the prime suspect. The catch is that Ivy claims to have given up a life of crime, and is living a simple life with a family. Upon further investigation, Batman discovers that Ivy was secretly growing people out of plant cells in her back yard. This is both one of the most disturbing yet saddest episodes of the series, highlighting just how sick and twisted the villain is, while also addressing the characters drama as she genuinely wants nothing more than to be part of family, which she can never have. This is another great episode that took a one-dimensional villain, and turned her into yet another sympathetic victim of circumstances.

#5 Over the Edge 

Here’s an episode that shows up on everyone’s favorite Batman lists, and for good reason because it’s firkin amazing. The premise is about as jaw dropping and brutal as they get. During a confrontation with the Scarecrow, Batgirl tragically loses her life, much to the dismay of her father police commissioner Gordon. Fueled by vengeance, the commissioner soon discovers Batman’s real identity, assembles an army of police officers to take him out and invades Wayne Mansion. Soon our hero finds himself on the run from both the law and from the criminals who now know his identity. Robin is forced to turn himself in, both Night Wing and Alfred are arrested, and to top off everything else, Gordon makes a deal with Bane to ambush Batman knowing that he’ll show up for her daughters funeral. It’s as insane as it sounds and it’s as epic as episodes get. It’s ambitious, unique, fast paced, and pulls no punches. The action sequences are among some of the shows best and the violence is very tense, especially by the standards of children’s programming. Batgirls death scene is a horrific spectacle, and one of the shows most heartbreaking moments. Also the final rooftop battle between Batman, Bane and Gordon is the stuff of legend. My only real quam with this episode is that the ending is a little too abrupt, and kind of a cheat. Never the less, “Over the Edge” is a great “what if” story, highlighting what would happen when both friends and foes discover our hero’s identity.  

#4 Two-Face 

This series really had a unique ability showcasing sympathetic villains, and personally I think the absolute best kind of criminal is one born from tragedy. Case in point, let’s look at Two-Face, who’s easily one of the shows best characters. Initially, he was a respected district attorney named Harvey Dent, and more importantly, he was Bruce Wayne’s best friend. This guy was Batman’s connection to humanity, and it’s great that the show introduced him in previous episodes, before he became a villain in the two part episode simply titled “Two-Face”. While fighting for peace in Gotham city, Harvey got in too deep with a mob boss named Thorne. To make matters worse, Thorne learns that Harvey suffers from multiple personality disorder, and one of the personalities colorfully calls himself “Big Bad Harv”. During a tense battle, an explosion destroys half of Harvey’s face, leaving him scared, and worse yet, forces his dominate side to take over completely. Aside from being a stealer villain origin episode, it also highlights one of Batman’s biggest failures. The visuals are dark, the concepts are depressing and the episode is just an all around Gothic spectacle that’s worthy to be ranked among some of the hero’s finest. 

#3 The Demons Quest 

While the Joker has always been Batman’s most popular villain, he was never really his greatest adversary, oh no, that title goes to the immortal cult leader Ra's Al Ghul. This guy wasn’t just a threat to Gotham City, he was a threat to the planet, and his episodes always had our hero acting outside the city boundaries. More than just being a global threat, Ra’s Al Ghul was the only foe smart enough to learn Batman’s identity on his own, casually walk into the Bat cave taking our hero by surprise, and raised the stakes higher than anyone before. However, unlike Batman’s other foes, Ra’s Al Ghul has a great deal of admiration for our hero, up to the point where he wishes for Batman to become air to his evil throne of world domination. In his introduction episode titled “The Demons Quest”, Ra’s Al Ghul captures Robin, sending Batman on a series of adventures around the globe. This of course is to test Batman’s capabilities, as well as possible loyalty. When Batman refuses to follow Ra’s Al Ghul on his quest for world domination, the two quickly become mortal enemies. It all builds to a thrilling climax between these two titans, which is personally one of my favorite showdowns in the shows one. The adventure elements of this episode are great, it's cool to see Batman travel the glob, and I especially love Batman's subtle relationship with Ra’s Al Ghul's daughter Talia Al Ghul. I think this is one of the more underappreciated episodes of the series, but really deserves more notice as it really highlights why Ra’s Al Ghul is Batman’s most challenging adversary.

#2 Almost Got’Im 

Here it is, the episode that’s often regarded by fans as one of the greatest if not the greatest of the whole series, and for good reason. How’s this for a perfect set-up ... The Joker, The Penguin, Two-Face, Killer Crock and Poison Ivy are having an annual bad guy get together at a poker table, and it only gets better from there. The rouges start betting on whose come the closest to killing Batman, so each of them in turn share’s there story of how they almost got him. This leads to a series of exciting short adventures fallowing Batman as he battles every one of his iconic foes. The action and creative cinereous are all very entertaining, but the highlight comes from simple watching these classic Batman villains at a poker table exchanging witty banter, and funny insults to each other. While Batman will always be one of my favorite superhero’s, the show honestly wouldn’t be half as good without his iconic enemies, and here they all are in one spot. For the time, this was the biggest gathering of classic Batman villains in the shows run, and their interactions off each other outstanding. It’s also cool to just see the villains be themselves for an episode. Throw in an ingenious plot twist at the end, and a sub-plot involving Catwoman being held hostage by Harley Quinn and you got a near flawless episode. This came very close to being my absolute favorite, had it not been for one other ...

Before I reveal my favorite episode, here are some quick honorable mentions ...


It's Never Too Late

The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne


The Cat and the Claw

#1 Heart of Ice 

Of all the iconic villain’s portrayed in this show, the one who seemed to make the biggest impact, and still stands as my personal favorite by far is Mr. Freeze. Initially in the comics, Mr. Freeze was a one-note joke villain, but this series took the bare principles of the villain and reconstructed him into a character that felt more fitting along with the best works of Shakespeare. Aside from a stealer vocal performance by Michael Ansara, Mr. Freeze is about as multi layered, complex and intimidating as villains got in this series. His introduction episode titled “Heart of Ice” was so good that it won the shows very first Emmy Award. While trying to cure his terminal wife from a fatal illness, Freeze was ambushed by a fellow co-worker, knocking him into various chemicals that transform him into a monster that can’t live outside of a subzero environment. Fearing that his wife was lost forever, Mr. Freeze vows vengeance against the man who ruined his life. This was the episode that got me watching this series, and it’s one that many fans believe really started things. We have a menacing villain with a tragic back-story, a haunting atmosphere to boot and some iconic imagery that people love to see emulated in Batman. This episode also features some of the best lines in the shows run, mostly from Mr. Freeze. For lack of better words, his dialogue in this episode is downright chilling. “Heart of Ice” did more than just introduce a great villain, it became the template for other works to aspire from, and proved that this series would break away from the conventional formulas associated with past superhero shows. If you’ve never watched this series before, yet have some interest in it, “Heart of Ice” is the episode I’d recommend starting with, it’s tragic, haunting, beautiful and a great show case for my favorite of Batman’s classic foes.         

The End