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|“||Yes, this journey should be enriching for all of us.||„|
|~ Commander Rourke foreshadowing his true intentions|
Commander Lyle Tiberius 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 is Milo Thatch's arch-nemesis.
|“||You have a nice swim? (Milo: Hey, guys. what's going on? What's... what's with all the guns? Guys........ oh, I'm such an idiot! This is another treasure hunt for you, you're after the crystal!) Oh, you mean this? *shows the missing page detailing the crystal* (Milo: The Heart of Atlantis.) 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, arrogant, ruthless 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 didn't even care if the Atlanteans would die as a result. He also has no loyalty to his own men, even betraying his right-hand woman Helga during the final battle, though this horribly backfired on him.
Rourke also has a strong sense of anti-intellectualism because he believed that prevents people from "playing dirty" in order to succeed in life and considers idealism as a weakness, as seen when his crew blamed him for all the wrong he has done, he is completely surprised and mocks them for letting a conscience growing up.
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 but he failed to do so. Even then, he did not completely lose his mind. He is also tough-minded and enduring, going after Milo even after his painful transformation.
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, for example when he punches Milo on the face and steps on his grandfather's picture just to be cruel, and never shows the slightest bit of remorse for his heinous deeds despite knowing he was endangering hundreds of lives.
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 under the employ of millionaire Preston B. Whitmore, whose closest friend Thaddeus Thatch is known for his claims about the existence of Atlantis. Upon hearing that Thaddeus is intending to find an ancient manuscript called the Shepherd's Journal that will detail the location of Atlantis, Whitmore sends over Rourke and his team of seven experts (Rourke's second-in-command Helga Katrina Sinclair, demolitions expert Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini, geologist Gaetan "Mole" Molière, medical officer Joshua Sweet, chief mechanic Mr. Ramirez, cook Jebidiah Allerdyce "Cookie" Farnsworth, and cynical communications expert Wilhelmina Packard) to help Thaddeus search for the lost book.
Eventually, Thaddeus was able to find the Shepherd's Journal located in Iceland, declaring the mission to be a success, much to the surprise and delight of Rourke and his team. Unfortunately, the Smithsonian board refuses to accept this and jeered Thaddeus, who died of a broken heart, much to Preston and the team's distraught. However, Rourke was secretly unconcerned by the loss of Thaddeus, and found out within the Shepherd's Journal a certain page that details a certain energy source (a powerful but sentient crystal called the Heart of Atlantis) that would make him extremely rich. Despite taking the page for himself, Rourke is unable to read and translate the Atlantean language, so he decided that he need to have an linguistics expert to help him translate the text.
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, learns that his proposal to lead an expedition to Iceland to find the Journal is denied by the Institution's board, so he angrily resigns. Eventually, Whitmore contacted Milo and asked him to be a member of the team, informing him that Thaddeus had already located the Journal in Iceland, and entrusted Whitmore to give it to Milo when he was ready.
Declaring this to be an honor and prove the Smithsonian board wrong about their claims, Milo happily accepts the offer; even Mr. Ramirez's teenage daughter Audrey takes over her father's job following the latter's retirement. 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, gloating that the trip will be quite enriching for all of us.
On the expedition to Atlantis, the explorers' submarine is sunk by an underwater Leviathan and the team suffered numerous casualties. But Milo, Rourke, and the remaining people persevere and manage to reach the entrance of Atlantis hidden underwater. During the journey, Milo read through the Journal and learns about the Heart of Atlantis, but soon learns that there is a missing page. 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 subterranean chamber beneath the earth, much to the team's extreme surprise and amazement. The team are also surprised to learn that the Atlanteans can speak other languages (including English) as the Atlantean language is the basis of those languages from a root dialect. 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 mercenaries, fully armed and are after the Heart of Atlantis. Milo then deduces that Rourke is going after the Heart, and Rourke presents out the missing page detailing the Heart to confirm it, revealing that he kept it in his person the whole time. Realizing this, Milo protests by stating that the Atlanteans will die without the Heart, 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, resulting an annoyed Rourke to mock him for trying to live up to his grandfather's idealisms. When it became clear that Milo is getting uncooperative, Rourke becomes more forceful and has his troops point their guns at 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". Rourke stomps over to the King and demands him to explain the riddle. When the King refuses, Rourke fatally punches the King in the chest, much to both Kida and the crew's horror. Realizing that this has gone out of hand, Sweet furiously defects to Milo's side as he berated Rourke for 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 metal container and prepares to leave with the crew while leaving Milo and Sweet behind. Milo berates the crew for going against their consciences to satisfy their greed at the expense of the Atlanteans. However, Rourke brushes this off by punching Milo in the face and crushing the framed photo of Milo and Thaddeus with his boot, mocking him with the irony that he started out as the man who discovered Atlantis that is about to become a part of an old history relic. Outraged by this and finally realizing what a greedy scoundrel Rourke truly is, Audrey, Vinny, Cookie, Packard and Mole defect to Milo's side, leaving Rourke with only Helga and his other men. The crew then berated Rourke for his actions, but he is unmoved as he leaves the crew in the dying city, proclaiming that he will take the profit for himself. The ruthless commander then has the bridge (the only one, in fact) detonated to prevent anyone from ever leaving the city.
The King, in his dying breath, gives Milo his crystal and begs him to rescue his daughter and save Atlantis. Eventually, Milo, the crew and the Atlanteans discover how to use the crystals to activate ancient flying machines and they give chase as an air force. As Milo and his team fly over to the volcano, Rourke had his men to inflate a massive balloon to haul the crystal through an ancient volcano to the surface. But Milo and his friends, and the rest of the warriors 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', the greedy Rourke betrays Helga by throwing her off to the volcano base, mocking her by claiming it to be 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 the evil commander, but he is easily outmatched by Rourke's strength and expertise in combat, thus Rourke quickly gaining the upper hand. However, Helga, fatally paralyzed by the fall, uses her remaining energy to pull out her flare gun and shoot at the balloon as retribution for Rourke's betrayal, setting the balloon on fire and descending 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 plot. Rourke swings his axe at Milo, who ducks and the axe shatters the glass cover on Kida's transport 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 cuts 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 in a almost feral state, having succumbed to madness. Still bent on killing Milo, he climbs at Milo's level. Fortunately, Milo pulls up the chains, hoisting the crystallized Rourke into the balloon's propellers, while Rourke screams one last time before the propellers shatter him into millions of pieces, killing him for good. The crystal pieces were enough to break the chains holding the Heart's container, thus allowing Milo and the team to regain hold of it.
However, the destruction and fiery crash of the balloon causes the volcano to become active and erupt, putting Atlantis in the brink of extinction. Fortunately, Milo gets himself and the crew to deliver the Heart back to the Atlantis, where the Heart powers up a giant shield to protect the city from the volcanic eruption and return Kida to normal, thus leaving Rourke's plans in complete vain.
After Atlantis is saved, the team is returned home to the surface while Milo stays behind to help Kida (who becomes the new Queen) rebuild the lost civilization. The team explained the truth about Rourke's plot to Whitmore, who agrees to the team's intentions to keep the discovery of Atlantis as a secret, even declaring that Rourke is "missing" to cover up the truth so that no one will ever try to steal the Heart of Altantis ever again.
Atlantis: Milo's Return
Although Rourke does not make an appearance, he is mentioned by Whitmore while telling Milo that his grandfather would have been proud that he stopped Rourke's plans for the Heart of Atlantis.
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 only three Disney villains featured in that show who does not appear in that film at all, with other two being Scar and Shere Khan because they are absent.
- Before the late James Garner was chosen to play Rourke, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Davenport, Kurt Russell, the late Heath Ledger, Josh Brolin, Joaquin Phoenix, and Ed Harris 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."
- Furthermore, just as the Ulysses is 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 to be disrespectful to maritime culture.
- Furthermore, just as the Ulysses is 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.
- 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 Atlantean as long as he gets richer.
- He is the first animated character to be voiced by James Garner.
- In some promotional pictures of the film, Rourke is holding a knife.
- On the PlayStation 1 video game of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Rourke is stated to be 6'4.
- The novelization and tie in the books actually mention that the crystal "recognized Rourke's evil", which means that it is not a random effect of an extraterrestrial substance - it is a wrathful and vengeful entity punishing Rourke because he profaned it.
- When Rourke is frustrated when his team abandons him, he tells : "P.T Barnum was right". He was referencing to Phineas Taylor Barnum's most famous quote (but not authentified) saying : "There's a sucker born every minute."
- If Rourke would have not let his greed get the better of him, he would still have earn a lot of money only for the discover of Atlantis. Even if all he wanted was money, he could just have stolen some artifacts (with his men watching the king at gunpoint) and left with more priceless treasures than he knew what to do with, without needing to doom an entire people (his former comrades end up being paid for exactly that at the end of the film) or try to ask a greater pay on his check to the wealthly Whitmore. Furthermore, at this time, noboby would be really able to pay what Rourke desires because the movie takes place in WW1. Nobody was so rich at this era.
- Rourke’s pants changes colour from green to black, presumably to symbolize how deeply the wish to have money (represented by green) can corrupt (represented by black) a person.
- Like in their previous films, directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale wanted to do something different with the character of Rourke, in terms of his characterization and portrayal as a villain, especially compared to others villains from previous Disney animation movies, wanting Rourke to be complex by not making him inherently evil, but rather greedy. The idea is that they wanted a three-dimensional villain as opposed to a two-dimensional villain. Given Rourke's actions, however, he can be a mix of both.
- His gun is a German Luger.