Yes, this journey should be enriching for all of us.
~ Commander Rourke
Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke is the hidden main antagonist of Disney's 41st full length animated feature film Atlantis: The Lost Empire. He is one of the very few Disney villains who does not initially appear to be evil, but gradually shows his villainy over the course of the film. He initially appears as a respectable commander, but as the movie progresses, he turns out to be a ruthless and crazed mercenary out to capture the Heart of Atlantis and make money off of it.
He was voiced by the late legendary voice actor James Garner.
Lyle T. 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 age fifteen. There, he exhibited a remarkable talent for leadership, owing to his analytic mind, charisma, and refusal to acknowledge the white flag surrender. He married in June 1887, but his wife left him after only four months.
He held numerous expeditions during his career, most notably leading the Whitmore Expedition to Atlantis.
In 1914, Milo James Thatch (the hero of the film), a linguistics and map expert working 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 don't believe in the existence of Atlantis), he angrily resigns, but then finds himself contacted by millionaire Preston B. Whitmore, a friend of Milo's grandfather, Thadeus Thatch. Much to Milo's delight, the elder Thadeus 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 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's been a pleasure to meet the grandson of old Thaddeus.
The sub is sunk by an underwater Leviathan and the team suffer numerous casualties, but Milo, Rourke, and the remaining people manage to reach to 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 surprise and amazement. They are met by the city's princess Kida, who brings them over to her father, the Atlantean King, 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, which is the source of the power that saved Atlantis from the tidal wave and of the strange blue gems that each Atlanean wears. As they leave the ruins, they are caught by Rourke and the rest of the team, who have turned mercenary and are after the Heart Of Atlantis. 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 dangerous.
They find the crystal in a chamber below the King's quarters, where Kida is drawn to the crystal and infused with its power.
Rourke plans to take Kida to the surface, but Milo protests, stating that without the Heart, Atlantis will be wiped out of existence. Rourke, taking no regard of this, orders his crew to move on, but not after personally punching Milo in the face and mocking him of his discovery by breaking the frame for his picture of his grandfather. Outraged, the other team members turn against Rourke and give in support for Milo and the Atlanteans, and Rourke, unmoved by this, leaves them all behind with Helga and the rest of his men. To ensure that they won't follow him, Rourke rigs the bridge with explosives to ensure that they remain trapped in the city forever.
The King, mortally wounded by Rourke, 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 Milo and the Atlanteans head on, 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', the greedy Rourke betrays Helga by throwing her off to the volcano base, saying that it's nothing personal.
He then engages into a fight with Milo, and during their scuffle, the fatally wounded Helga 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 in a faster rate, much to Rourke's anger. Losing what's left of his sanity, Rourke grabs an axe to kill Milo, but shatters Kida's imprisonment instead. Milo thinks fast that Rourke was too dangerous to be kept alive, so he desperately takes a shard of glass containing the crystal's essence and uses it to make a scratch on Rourke's arm, turning Rourke into a crystallized monster.
Milo then pushes the crystallized Rourke into the blimp's propellers, while Rourke screams one last time before the propellers shatter him into millions of pieces, destroying him for good. As the remaining pieces scatter, they break the chains of the cargo hold, allowing Milo and his friends to take the crystal back to the city to save the whole civilization from an imminent volcanic eruption caused by their battle.
In the end, the crew return back to the surface while Milo stays behind in Atlantis to help rebuild its former glory, and they (along with Mr. Whitmore) form a cover story to keep the existence of Atlantis as a secret, describing Rourke's fate as 'nervous breakdown' and that he went missing in action.
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 and calm leader, seemingly taking extreme 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, ruthless, and almost crazed person, 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 didn't 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 pragmatic and tough and makes his own rules. Rourke, a pragmatist both personally and professionally, tends to take what he needs and discards anything he considers "useless baggage".
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 the only Disney villain featured in that show that does not appear in that film at all.
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
Tell Cookie to melt the butter and break out the bibs! I want this lobster served up on a silver platter!
~ Rourke addressing about his submarine being attacked by the Leviathan
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 sugar-coat 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 Ulyssess 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 brought us here. You're the one who led us 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.
~ 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-- (stops and looks at spiral-like symbol on Shephard's Journal, then at the same shape 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
I know I'm forgetting something. I got the cargo, the crystal, the crew- ohhh yeah. (punches Milo) Look at it this way, son. You're the man who discovered Atlantis, and now you're part of the exhibit.
~ 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
I love it when I win!
~ Rourke getting his men to perform an escape route inside the volcano
We're losing altitude! Lighten the load! (Helga: "That's it, unless someone wants to jump.") Ladies first! (tosses Helga off, but she 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!!!!
~ Rourke's last words
An easy-to-miss foreshadowing of Rourke's true role in the film.
Milo meets Rourke
"This journey should be enriching for all of us."
Rourke revealing his true nature to Milo
Rourke with the missing Journal page
"If you gave up every stolen artifact from a museum, you'd be left with an empty building."
"I really hate it when negotiations go sour."
"Maybe I'm not being clear."
Rourke fatally punches the King.
"Look at it this way, son. You were the man who discovered Atlantis, and now you're part of the exhibit."
"I love it when I win."
Rourke betraying Helga by throwing her off the blimp
Milo vs. Rourke
Rourke's Evil Grin as he prepares to kill Milo with a fire axe.
Rourke transforming into a crystalized monster after being wounded with crystal by Milo.
Rourke fully transformed.
Rourke as a crystallized monster
Crystalized Rourke lunges at Milo
Milo hoists Rourke up to the blimp propellers
Rourke exploded and literally shattered into a million pieces.
Rourke has some similarities to Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Clayton from Tarzan, The Prospector and Lotso from Toy Story, Turbo from Wreck-It Ralph, and Prince Hans from Frozen: In the sense that they don't appear to be evil at first, but as the films progress, their true, twisted natures are revealed.
Rourke is similar to General Shepherd from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, as they are high-ranking military officers who initially appear to be upstanding, but turn out to be corrupt and betray their subordinates for their own selfish goals.
A foreshadowing of Rourke's treachery and eventual betrayal is when Whitmore places all the expeditionists photos. Rourke's photo is the only photo that's partially obscured. Another foreshadowing happens when they are about to board the sub and Rourke proclaims the trip "will be enriching for all of us."
Another example of foreshadowing is when Helga informs Rourke that there was not supposed to be people in Atlantis, and this changes everything. Determined, Rourke states that nothing has changed.