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Villain Overview
Yes, this journey should be enriching for all of us.
~ Commander Rourke

Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke, or better known as Commander Rourke, Lyle T. Rourke, Lyle Tiberius Rourke, Lyle Rourke and also simply known by his surname Rourke, is the main antagonist of Disney's 41st full-length animated feature film Atlantis: The Lost Empire. He initially appears as a very reliable and praiseworthy commander able to lead his men through perils, but as the film progresses, he turns out to be a highly manipulative, ruthless and sadistic mercenary who is out to capture the Heart of Atlantis and make money off of it.

He was voiced by the late James Garner. In the video game, he was voiced by Earl Boen.

Biography

Early Life

Lyle Tiberius Rourke was born in 1860 and learned the ways of military life at an early age when his father, a cavalry officer named Lt. Col. Jackson, was killed in battle in 1864 during the Civil War. After repeated expulsions from boarding school for fighting, Rourke resolved to follow in his father's footsteps and joined the military in 1875 at the age of 15. There, he exhibited a remarkable talent for leadership, owing to his analytical mind, charisma, and refusal to acknowledge the white flag surrender. He married in June 1887 at the age of 27, but his wife left him after only 4 months. Later, he retired in 1901 and became obsessed in finding the heart of Atlantis at the age of 41, but needed a help from a specialist well-versed in Atlantis.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

In 1914, Milo James Thatch (the hero of the film), a luckless linguistics and map expert who works for the Smithsonian Institution, believes that an ancient manuscript known as the Shepherd's Journal will lead to the location of Atlantis. When his proposal to lead an expedition to Iceland to find the Journal is denied by the Institution's board (since they disbelieve in the existence of Atlantis), he angrily resigns, but then finds himself contacted by millionaire, Preston B. Whitmore, a friend of Milo's late grandfather, Thaddeus Thatch. Much to Milo's delight, the elder Thaddeus Thatch had already located the Journal in Iceland, and asked Whitmore to give it to Milo when he was ready.

Whitmore asks Milo to become part of a team to search for Atlantis on a high-tech submarine. Milo joins Commander Rourke, his second-in-command Helga Katrina Sinclair, demolitions expert Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini, geologist Gaetan "Mole" Molière, medical officer Joshua Sweet, tomboy mechanic Audrey Ramirez, cook Jebidiah Allerdyce "Cookie" Farnsworth, and cynical communications expert Wilhelmina Packard. Upon meeting Rourke in person, Milo shook hands with him, and Rourke states that it has been a pleasure to meet the grandson of old Thaddeus.

On the expedition to Atlantis, the explorers' submarine is sunk by an underwater Leviathan and the team suffer numerous casualties. But Milo, Rourke, and the remaining people persevere and manage to reach the entrance of Atlantis hidden underwater. After going through several obstacles as stated in the Journal, Milo and the team are able to locate the underwater city of Atlantis, where it still survives in a bubble beneath the earth, much to the team's extreme surprise and amazement. They are met by the city's princess Kida, who brings them over to her father, the Atlantean King Kashekim Nedakh, who allows the team to stay for one night before they can leave for the surface per Rourke's request.

As the team enjoy their stay in the ancient city, Kida discovers that Milo can read the Atlantean language, long forgotten by her own people ever since a tidal wave consumed much of the ancient empire thousands of years ago. They dive to read ancient underwater murals, and learn about the Heart of Atlantis, a giant blue crystal that is the source of the power that saved Atlantis from the tidal wave and of the strange blue gems that each Atlantean wears. As they leave the ruins, they are caught by Rourke and the rest of the team who have turned out to be mercenary, fully armed and are after the Heart of Atlantis. Milo protests, stating that without the Heart, Atlantis will die. But Rourke takes no regard of it, and instead states that it will make him even more rich. Rourke attempts to justify his actions by claiming that each of the artifacts at a museum are technically stolen (although considering that Rourke wishes to make a profit from stealing the heart, he likely was not planning to donate it to a museum), but Milo warns him that tampering with the Heart of Atlantis could be potentially disastrous. When it became clear that Milo is getting uncooperative, Rourke becomes more forceful and has his troops point their guns at Princess Kida's head, and Milo reluctantly complies.

Rourke then has the doors to the Atlantean king's chambers blown open and his crew search the throne room for the Crystal, but find nothing. Rourke aggressively holds up the Shepherd's Journal in front of Milo, demanding him to give him a clue. Milo tells Rourke that the Journal states the riddle "the Heart of Atlantis lies in the eyes of her king". So Rourke stomps over to Kashekim Nedakh and demands him to explain the riddle. When the King refuses, Rourke fatally punches the elderly, already dying King in the chest, to the crew's horror. When Dr. Sweet furiously objects to Rourke on what he just did to the King, Rourke just brushes Sweet off, telling him there has just been a change of plans. Sitting on the King's throne, Rourke threatens to shoot the King if he does not tell him the Crystal's location. Just as Rourke impatiently prepares to pull the trigger, he suddenly stops and looks at the symbol on the Journal's cover, then at the same shape formed by rocks at the surface of the pool overlooking the throne room, and he manages to figure out the riddle on his own. He then proceeds to descend into the chamber with Helga dragging Milo and Kida along.

Inside the Crystal Chamber, Milo and Rourke argue over how the crystal is to be retrieved. Kida is called upon by the Heart of Atlantis and is bonded with it. Rourke then has Kida sealed up in a container and prepares to leave. Milo pleads that their actions will decimate the Atlanteans, but the scholar's plea simply falls deaf on Rourke's ears and he punches Milo in the face, and then crushes the framed photo of Milo and Thaddeus with his foot. Outraged, Audrey, Vinny, Cookie, Packard and Mole abandon Rourke to join Milo's side, leaving Rourke with only Helga and his other men. Unmoved, Rourke leaves his former crew in the dying city. Rourke then has the bridge (the only one, in fact) detonated to prevent them from following in an attempt to stop him.

The King, in his dying breath, gives Milo his crystal and begs him to rescue his daughter and save Atlantis. Milo and the Atlanteans discover how to use the crystals to activate ancient flying machines and they give chase as an air force. As Atlantean-Surfacer ally led by Milo closes in on Rourke's forces, Rourke had his men to activate a blimp to haul the crystal through an ancient volcano to the surface. But Milo and his team arrive, engaging into a fight against Rourke's troops.

During the lengthy battle, Milo's friends and the Atlanteans gained the upper hand against Rourke's forces and annihilated them, while Milo rammed his machine into Rourke's blimp, causing it to lose altitude slowly. Determined to 'lighten the load', Rourke becomes greedy and betrays Helga by throwing her off to the volcano base, saying that it is nothing personal.

Milo swings on a rope towards Rourke and they both fall. Grabbing the rope, they slide down and land on the platform above the spinning propeller blades. Milo lunges at Rourke, but he is easily outmatched by Rourke's strength and expertise in combat, thus Rourke quickly gaining the upper hand. However, Helga, critically wounded but still alive, pops out her flare gun and shoots at the blimp as retribution for Rourke's betrayal, causing the blimp to set on fire and descend at a faster rate, much to Rourke's anger and horror. Losing what is left of his sanity, Rourke grabs an axe to kill Milo in revenge for foiling his plans. Rourke swings his axe at Milo, who ducks and the axe shatters the glass cover on Kida's prison container, with glass shards becoming embedded with the Heart of Atlantis. Thinking quickly, Milo desperately takes a shard of glass containing the crystal's essence as Rourke grabs him to finish the killing blow on him. Just as Rourke prepares to decapitate Milo, the latter scratches his arm with the shard, turning Rourke into a crystallized blue monster. At first, Milo thought Rourke was done for, but was proved wrong when Rourke appears to be alive, still bent on killing Milo. Fortunately, Milo pulls up the chains, hoisting the crystallized Rourke into the blimp's propellers, while Rourke screams one last time before the propellers shatter him into millions of pieces, destroying Rourke for good, thus the traitorous mercenary ends up paying the price for his greed and treachery.

However, the destruction and crash of the blimp has caused the volcano to become active and erupt, putting Atlantis in the brink of extinction. Fortunately, Milo gets himself and the crew to deliver the crystal back to the Atlantis, where the crystal powers up a giant shield to protect the city from the volcanic eruption, thus leaving Rourke's plans in complete vain.

House of Mouse

Rourke makes a cameo appearance in Donald Wants to Fly, when he was watching Kida fly above his head in quiet awe. This was Rourke's only appearance in House of Mouse. Strangely enough, he (for some reason) does not appear in the show's tie-in film Mickey's House of Villains, not even as a cameo, and is therefore one of the Disney villains featured in that show that does not appear in that film at all, with other two being Scar and Shere Khan.

Personality

Yeah, about that, I would've told you sooner, but it was strictly on a need-to-know basis, and... well, now you know. I had to be sure you were one of us. Welcome to the club, son!
~ Rourke revealing his true nature after Milo deduces his true plan to steal the Heart of Atlantis.

Rourke first started out appearing as a respectable, generous and calm leader; seemingly taking meticulous notion of the safety of his team during the expedition and mourning over the casualties as the expedition continues. However, this was merely a facade to hide and reveal his true nature: that of a greedy, brutal, loathsome, destructive and callous mercenary, willing to get anything he wants, as he planned to steal of Heart of Atlantis to sell for a high price, and did not even care if the Atlanteans would die as a result. Also, he did not even care about either letting his own men being killed or betraying his right-hand woman Helga during the final battle, though this horribly backfired on him.

Rourke is also shown to be an authoritative and intelligent pragmatist (both personally and professionally) who tends to make his own rules, take what he needs and discards anything that he considers "useless baggage". Rourke is also partially argumentative and has quite a bit of control over his temper, as he tells Milo and congratulates him for setting it off. Even then, he remains mostly calm despite his clear annoyance. However, following the thwarting of his plot, Rourke completely lost his calm attitude as he sadistically attempts to kill off Milo in revenge.

Overall, Rourke is an evil madman with no regard for anyone but himself. Worse, he clearly enjoys causing suffering as he committed many crimes out of sadism instead of greed.

Quotes

Milo Thatch. Pleasure to meet the grandson of old Thaddeus. I see you got that journal. Nice pictures, but I prefer a good western myself.
~ Rourke upon meeting Milo Thatch for the first time.
Seven hours ago, we started this expedition with 200 of the finest men and women I ever known. We're all that's left. I won't sugarcoat it, gentlemen. We have a crisis in our hands. But we've been up in this particular creek before, and we've always come through, paddle or no paddle. I see no reason to change that policy now. From here onward, everyone pulls double duty, everyone drives, everyone works. Looks like all of our chances of survival rest with you, Mr. Thatch. You and that little book.
~ Rourke addressing his remaining troops after seemingly mourning the loss of the Ulysses crew caused by the Leviathan.
(Helga: Someone's having a good time.) Like a kid on Christmas. (Helga: Commander, there were not supposed to be people down here. This changes everything.) This changes nothing.
~ Rourke mocking Helga over her concern about the Atlantean natives.
May I respectfully request that we stay one night, sir? That would give us time to rest, resupply, and be ready to travel by morning. (King Nedakh: Very well... one night. That is all.) Why, thank you, Your Majesty.
~ Rourke negotiating with the King to allow him and the team to stay one night in the city.
Mercenary? I prefer the term "adventure capitalist". Besides, you're the one who got us here. You led us right to the treasure chest. (Milo: You don't know what you're tampering with, Rourke.) What's to know? It's big, it's shiny, it's gonna make us all rich. (Milo: You think it's some kind of a diamond. I thought it was some kind of a battery. But we're both wrong. It's their life force. That crystal is the only thing keeping these people alive. You take that away, and they'll die!) Well, that changes things. Helga, what do you think? (Helga: Knowing that, I'd double the price.) I was thinking triple.
~ Rourke commenting on how much fortune the Heart of Atlantis will give to him and his team.
Academics. You never wanna get your hands dirty.... think about it. If you gave back every stolen artifact from a museum, you'd be left with an empty building. We're just providing a necessary service to the archaeological community. (Milo: Not interested.) I gotta admit I'm disappointed. You're an idealist, just like your grandfather. Do yourself a favor, Milo. Don't be like him. For once, do the smart thing. (Milo glares at Rourke; Rourke sighs) I really hate it when negotiations go sour. (snaps his fingers and his soldiers point their guns at Kida's head; Rourke pulls out the missing page about the Heart of Atlantis again and shows it to Milo.) Let's try this again. (grins evilly)
~ Rourke attempting to get Milo into his side (to no avail).
You're not applying yourself, son! There's gotta be something else! (Milo: Well, there isn't! It just says: The Heart of Atlantis lies in the eyes of her King.) Well, then maybe Old King Cole here can help us fill in the blanks. How 'bout it, chief? Where's the crystal chamber? (King Nedakh: You will destroy yourselves!) Maybe I'm not being clear. (punches Nedakh)
~ Rourke about to fatally punch the King.
(Dr. Sweet: Rourke, this was NOT a part of the plan!) The plan's changed, Doc. I'd suggest you put a bandage on that bleeding heart of yours, it doesn't suit a mercenary. Well, as usual, diplomacy has failed us.
~ Dr. Sweet turning against Rourke for punching the King.
Now, I'm going to count to ten, and you're going to tell me where the crystal is. One...two...nine...t-- (stops and looks at spiral-like symbol on Shepherd's Journal, then at the same shape on the surface of the pool overlooking the King's throne) The Heart of Atlantis lies in the eyes of her King. This is IT! We're in!
~ Rourke deducing the location of the crystal chamber.
Jackpot!!
~ Rourke after finally discovering the crystal hidden under the throne room.
Get off your soapbox, Thatch. You read Darwin, it's called natural selection. We're just helping it along. (Helga: Commander, we're ready.) Yeah, give me a minute. I know I'm forgetting something. I got the cargo, the crystal, the crew- ohhh yeah. (punches Milo) Look at it this way, son. (breaks the frame of Thaddeus' photo by stepping on it) You're the man who discovered Atlantis, and now you're part of the exhibit. Let's move, people!
~ Rourke taunting Milo of his discovery of Atlantis (the very same speech that drove the team away in disgust).
Oh, you can't be serious. (Audrey: This is wrong and you know it!) We're this close to our biggest payday ever and you pick now of all times to grow a conscience?! (Vinny: We've done a lot of thing's we're not proud of: robbin' graves, eh, plunderin' tombs, double parkin', but nobody got hurt. Well...maybe somebody got hurt, but nobody we knew.) Well, if that's the way you want it, fine. More for me! P.T. Barnum was right.
~ Rourke expressing his disappointment after his team leave him in disgust and join Milo's side.
I love it when I win!
~ Rourke getting his men to perform an escape route inside the volcano.
We got company!! (boards the blimp) Take 'er up!!
~ Rourke seeing Milo assembling an air force with flying fish-mobiles before boarding his blimp.
We're losing altitude! Lighten the load! (Helga tosses a fuel tank overboard) (Helga: That's it, unless someone wants to jump.) Ladies first! (tosses Helga off, but she swings from the railing and jumps back in and kicks Rourke in the face.) (Helga: You said we were in this together! You promised me a percentage!!) Next time, get it in writing! (throws Helga off again) Nothing personal!
~ Rourke betraying Helga by throwing her overboard to her death
Well, I have to hand it to you. You're a bigger pain in the neck than I would've ever thought possible! I consider myself an even-tempered man. It takes a heck of a lot to get under my skin. But congratulations: you just won the solid-gold kewpie doll!
~ Rourke taunting Milo.
Tired, Mr. Thatch?! Ah, that's a darn shame... 'CAUSE I'M JUST GETTING WARMED UP!!!! (lifts up Milo but gets cut by a crystal glass shard) ARGHH!
~ Rourke's last words moments before his transformation and death.

Trivia

  • Before the late James Garner was chosen to play Rourke, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Davenport, Kurt Russell, the late Heath Ledger, Josh Brolin, and Joaquin Phoenix were also candidates for the role. James Garner and Tommy Lee Jones had previously appeared together in the 2000 Clint Eastwood adventure drama film Space Cowboys by Warner Bros. Pictures.
  • Rourke's treachery and eventual betrayal was foreshadowed several times early in the film.
    • When Whitmore places all of the explorers' photos. Rourke's photo is the only photo that's partially obscured with only half his face visible. Also, along with their photos are small sheets of paper showing the explorers' profiles and biographies. Since viewers do not see the other half of Rourke's face, they do not see his biography at all, implying that he is deceitful in nature.
    • When they are about to board the sub, Rourke proclaims the trip "will be enriching for all of us".
    • Also, just as the Ulysses was submerging, Whitmore is seen crossing his fingers behind his back, implying that he did not take full trust on the expedition to be led by Rourke.
    • Also, when the remaining crew members are forced to evacuate the sub, Rourke is the first to enter the escape pods. In real life, the captain is always the last crew member to evacuate a sinking ship (hence the phrase "go down with the ship"), so this is often considered disrespectful to maritime culture.
    • When the crew is allowed to enter the city, Rourke orders his soldiers to stay behind at the volcano base and "salvage what [they] can", which hints that he's covering up a secret agenda of his own.
    • During the journey, Milo noticed that a missing page from the Journal details the crystal and deduced that Rourke was onto something nefarious from the start, something which Rourke confirmed by revealing that he had kept possession of the missing page the entire time; even Sweet confirmed that Rourke was onto stealing the crystal ever since he and the team recovered the Journal in Iceland.
    • When Helga informs Rourke that there was not supposed to be people in Atlantis and that it changes everything, Rourke is determined and states that nothing has changed, implying that he does not care of whatever fate he brings to the Atlanteans.
  • Although Rourke is the main antagonist, he has only around 25 minutes of screen-time.

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