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 of 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, an aspiring young linguist working in the boiler room at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., believes that a manuscript known as the Shepherd's Journal will lead to the location of Atlantis. When his proposal to lead an expedition 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. The elder Thadeus Thatch had already located the Journal, 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 Dr. Joshua Sweet, tomboy mechanic Audrey Ramirez, cook Jebidiah Allerdyce "Cookie" Farnsworth, and cynical communications expert Wilhelmina Packard.
The sub is sunk by an underwater Leviathan and his mercenaries suffer numerous casualties, but the team escapes. After fateful misadventures, they are able to find the underwater entrance to Atlantis. To their amazement, the city still survives in a bubble beneath the earth. They are met by Kida, daughter of the Atlantean King. Kida discovers that Milo can read the Atlantean language, long forgotten by her own people. 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. They find the crystal in a chamber below the King's quarters. 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 him 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. 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. Rourke plans to escape through an ancient volcano with the crystal on tow, 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 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 the latter takes a piece 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 would then push the crystallized Rourke into the blimp's propellers, shattering him to a million pieces. As the 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.
Rourke is greedy, ruthless, and almost crazed. And he is also a pragmatic, tough, mercenary 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."
It was later revealed that he was planning to take the Heart Of Atlantis for himself, and that he did not care if the Atlanteans died out in the process.
- Rourke is similar to Sir Ector from The Sword in the Stone, Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas, and Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as all three are soldiers/army commanders and are trained in combat or lead an army into battle against the Heroes.
- Rourke is also similar to Stromboli from Pinocchio and Clayton from Tarzan as all three are thought of as friendly at first, but then they reveal their true colors by betraying the protagonists who thought they could
- Rourke is also similar to Prince Hans from Frozen, as they both are villains to a female lead with light- colored hair (Kida and Elsa),
as they are first shown to be kind and trustworthy at the beginning only to be shown as cruel and ruthless at the climax of their films.
- Though he initially appears to be one of the heroes in the film, he is arguably one of the most evil Disney villains.
- When Rourke gets turned into a crystal creature it's similar to Sa'Luk's death in Aladdin and the king of thieves, but he stills lives when
crystallized. Like Sa'luk, Rourke is unbelievably strong, as he manages to effortlessly overpower Helga and trounce her in unarmed combat. While Helga is using every ounce of strength in her body, Rourke needs only one arm to toss her. Despite her using much more of her energy and strength to try to defeat him, Rourke still manages to subdue Helga without breaking a sweat or showing any signs of fatigue. On the other hand, she is clearly out of breath and giving it her all. However, in spite of her giving it her all and him putting in no effort during the fight, he subdues with her hilarious ease, making her look like a pathetic child in comparison to him. Right after tossing Helga (who is by no means a weakling) with such ease, he overpowers Milo with even greater ease.
- Rourke's fight with Milo was similar to the fight between Gaston and the Beast, even having Rourke trying to smash an axe against
him. Coincidentally, both Beauty and the Beast and Atlantis: The Lost Empire were created by the same writers.
- Rourke's treachery and eventual betrayal was actually foreshadowed early in the film during Milo's conversation with Whitmore:
When Whitmore shows Milo the photographs of all of the explorers he will be traveling to Atlantis with, Rourke's photograph shows only half his face. Also, along with their photos are small sheets of paper showing the explorer's profiles and biographies. Since we do not see the other half of Rourke's face, we do not see his biography at all.
- Also, when the remaining crew members are forced to evacuate the submarine, 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.
- Yet another clue to Rourke's betrayal includes some of his early lines in the film, especially those containing either the words
"rich" and/or "money", with the most obvious example of this being his line, "This will be an enriching for all of us."
- After Rourke abandons all of his teammates except for Helga along with Milo and the other Atlanteans in Atlantis, as he and Helga
are leaving Atlantis with the crystallized Kida, he tells himself, "P.T. Barnum was right." P.T. Barnum was a famous American showman who coined the phrase, "there's a sucker born every minute."
- Rourke's middle name, Tiberius, could be a possible reference to Captain James Tiberius Kirk from the show Star Trek, of which Kashekim Nedakh's voice actor Leonard Nimoy played Spock.
- Rourke has at least 90 henchmen (including himself and Helga), given the fact that the Ulysses was supposed to have 200 crew members at
the start of the expedition, and that half (100) of said crew were all killed in the Leviathan attack, and that only seven crew members (Milo, Vinny, Molière, Audrey, Dr. Sweet, Mrs. Packard, and Cookie) actually survive at the end.
- For a while, Rourke (and to a much lesser extent, Helga), was the most marketed character from the film following Atlantis' release, and was therefore officially the most popular character from that film. However, Rourke's popularity may only be due to the fact that
he is the villain.
- At one point Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Davenport, and Kurt Russell was going to be cast as Rourke.
- On one of the earlier versions of the script, during the final battle, when Rourke uses the fire axe in order to kill Milo and
accidentally breaks the glass window from the steel container where Kida is, instead of trying to swing the axe once more against him, Rourke would have pulled out a revolver and try to shoot Milo on the head, upon which Milo would have shoved the piece of the crystallized glass in the revolver's barrel, making the firearm explode and backfire. The shards created by the explosion would have hit Rourke in the eyes, rendering him blind and prompting him to fall from the balloon to his death. The writers decided to rewrite the scene, as they thought it was too similar to Helga's death.
- Ironically, Tim Curry, Rourke's current voice actor following James Garner's death, was originally going to voice King Kashekim Nedakh
before King Nedakh was voiced by Leonard Nimoy instead.
- Rourke is the fifth male Disney Princess villain, after Gaston, Jafar, Ratliffe, and Shan Yu, but before Doctor "The Shadow Man"
Facilier", Mordu, and Hans.
- Lyle Tiberius Rourke having is the second Disney Villain to have one part of a book that the hero
has, and the part the villain have has something important and use it for their own nefarious plans, Rourke has a page of the Shepherd's Journal from Milo Thatch which contains information about the Heart of Atlantis, the first is The Bookman from Bedknobs and Broomsticks has the part of The Spells of Astoroth from Miss Eglantine Price for the Substitutiary Locomotion spell and the third is Mittington Random in the Phineas and Ferb episode, Klimpaloon having the second journal of the Klimpaloon from Phineas and Ferb which contains the map to Klimpaloon.
- Commander Rourke will become the Enemy of Thomas, Twilight Sparkle, and their friends in Thomas and Twilight Sparkle find Atlantis The Lost Empire. And then he returns in Thomas and Twilight Sparkle's Adventures of Avatar.
- Commander Rourke is also a close accountant to Trixie.