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Nightmare Fuel / Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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You thought that a movie about a linguist finding the lost civilization of Atlantis wouldn't be scary at all, did you? News flash; you thought wrong.

WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.

  • The opening scene of the movie provides some Fridge Horror. After an introductory quote from Plato, we're treated to a scene of a calm ocean landscape. Suddenly, there's a bright flash and a fleet of Atlantean vehicles outrunning a mushroom cloud. The king later explains he wanted to weaponize the Heart of Atlantis, apparently as an ancient equivalent to an atomic bomb.
    • The sinking itself is also chock full of this. Never mind Kida losing her mother, the barrier doesn't cover the entire city, leaving those trapped outside to die.
    • We aren't spared any details, either. We see a couple hugging each other as they watch the waves crash through the city, and the terrified final moments of the people who were right on the edge of the barrier banging futilely on it as the wave overcomes them all.
    • A subtle example: What's the very first vehicle in the frantic convoy of ships fleeing from the explosion? A Leviathan, and there are five others flying in formation behind it. It's harder to say which is worse: That Atlantis had a FLEET of those monstrosities, or that the explosion was so horrifyingly powerful that the Leviathans scatter before it like rats?
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    • Imagine that kind of power in the hands of somebody like Rourke. Or the people he was gonna sell it to.
  • The Leviathan itself. It's a crustacean-shaped Magitek Mechanical Monster with glowing red eyes and a deadly particle beam Wave Motion Gun. Official measurements of the Ulysses state that it is 115 meters (roughly 377 feet) in length. The Leviathan's smaller claws are large enough to wrap fully around the Ulysses, and from turnarounds, appear to be somewhere near a twelfth of the Leviathan's total length. That gives the Leviathan a length that would be better measured in miles (being somewhere in the range of 12-14 thousand feet long, or 2-2.5 miles).
    Rourke: What is that, a pod of whales?
    Mrs. Packard: Nuh-uh, bigger.
    • Watching it kill the Ulysses. Good God, so many people die. On-screen!
      • Not counting the Leviathan swatting some Sub-Pods so hard they explode, it's Wave Motion Gun actually causes the skeletons of some people who were near the blast and lucky enough to not get hit with it directly to become visible for a brief instant, Dalek-style. Potentially, the Leviathan's most deadly weapon is radioactive in nature and it only starts using it once it becomes clear that the crew of the Ulysses can fight back against it.
      • When the expedition begins, there's a veritable fleet of Sub-Pods and four escape subs. By the time the expedition has escaped the Leviathan, there's just one of each.
    • Let's not forget the bone-chilling shot where the Ulysses is scanning the seafloor, a seafloor covered in the wreckage of hundreds upon hundreds of sailing ships, and shines its spotlights across one section the seafloor...which then moves.
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    • Then there's the shot where the Leviathan grabs the Ulysses in its mandibles and holds it there, as if to get a better look at it. Almost as if it's studying it for weaknesses...
      • Worse than that, it's incredibly clear that the Leviathan could have smashed the Ulysses into coin-sized fragments without even using the Wave Motion Gun, and yet the Ulysses lasts almost five minutes against it. The conclusion that can be drawn from this? The Leviathan doesn't just destroy its prey; it likes toying with them first. A two-mile long invincible Mechanical Abomination with a sadistic streak. Great! The other possibility, that its on-board A.I has degraded due to over a thousand years of non-maintenance, doesn't help matters.
      • It gets even worse than that. When it snags the Ulysses, Milo is sent sprawling into the reinforced glass and when he gets back up he notices that the Leviathan is a machine as he's staring right at one of it's eyes which is peering into the Ulysses' control center and is bigger than him by a wide margin. As he says this, it's eye constricts until it's about half as big as Milo. It's staring right at him, and him specifically.
    • Considering how it shredded the Ulysses, one has to wonder...what the devil was it built to defend Atlantis against?! The other cultures of Earth were at the dugout canoe stage, at best! (The sequel provides at least one candidate in the form of the Kraken...)
      • Atlantis IS an empire, and the King was trying to wage war (against Athens, judging from Plato's texts). Which also creates another point of Nightmare Fuel: imagine you are one of those people in a dugout canoe, just minding your own business when, suddenly, a two mile-long LOBSTER OF DEATH erupts from the water, flies over to your village (it was flying in the prologue), and flash-fries it in an instant.
      • Worse, as noted above, the opening shot of the movie shows that there were four Leviathans coming in formation from a single direction. They're shockingly fast (outrunning both the explosion and some of the other, smaller vessels) and they can fly. Sweet dreams.
      • Possibly the worst thing about the Leviathan? It's not just huge and monstrously destructive, it's also quiet. The Ulysses crew have infinitely more advanced scanning equipment than the Atlanteans (or other ancient civilizations) would have, and they couldn't detect exactly where it was until literally the moment it hit them. Anywhere that's close to the ocean, it could strike, and you wouldn't have a clue or a warning until it was far too late.
      • The Leviathan also does not relent after destroying the Ulysses which means only one thing. It's programmed to leave no survivors.
      • Not only that, but keep in mind, Leviathans are unmanned machines, not vessels, and presumably don't have any kind of self-preservation instinct. And yet the first thing we see onscreen is a bunch of Leviathans bolting the fuck outta dodge when the cataclysm occurs, so we can assume that their internal targeting computers or whatever told them there was absolutely no chance of surviving the explosion. How many movies can you name where the Weapon of Mass Destruction is so powerful that it opens with the three-mile-long invincible giant robot fleeing in terror from the explosion?
      • In the opening, at least three of the six Leviathans escape the explosion but get swallowed up by the massive tidal wave. Considering that it's an aquatic vessel, it seems highly unlikely that they were all completely destroyed by the tsunami. Assuming that the one that later attacked the Ulysses was one of the ones that got caught in the wave, there could be two more of these abominations patrolling our oceans! And considering that it's stealthy enough that the Ulysses crew couldn't precisely locate until it had already hit them, even if they were there, you would never know for sure.

  • Rourke, the Big Bad of the movie.
    • His willingness to condemn the Atlanteans to death despite Milo's protests.
      Rourke: Look at it this way, son. You were the man who discovered Atlantis, and now you're part of the exhibit.
    • When Rourke throws Helga from the balloon and she falls between the propeller blades? Not to mention the implication that the fall broke her back.
    • When Rourke is trying to kill Milo on the zeppelin. Before, hey, he's a little angry HOLY SHIT HE'S GOT A FIRE AXE!!! It's the page image for a reason...
    Rourke: Tired, Mr. Thatch? Aww, that's a darn shame... 'CAUSE I'M JUST GETTING WARMED UP!'
    • That whole scene where Milo does away with Rourke. Milo stabs him with some broken glass from Kida's containment box and turns the man into a roaring, monstrous crystal creature with red eyes. The creators of Silent Hill would be impressed. Not only that, but look at his crystal form. Kida's is glowing and almost goddess-like. Rourke's crystal form looks like it came from the depths of somebody's nightmares.
    • His scream when he goes crystal. Jesus!
    • Rourke's Transformation Sequence, in general. In particular what happens when it starts—he gains an absolutely terrified expression when he sees the crystal spreading across his arm, and starts rubbing said arm, as if desperately trying to stop the crystal from spreading to no avail.
      • The fact that he was still going after Milo even after being transformed.

  • The masked tribe that follows Milo and the rest of the crew through the caverns. If the director's mission was to throw off the audience that these strange, primal-looking creatures weren't the Atlanteans, then mission accomplished.

  • The fireflies. When Milo's flashlight first agitates them, a few of them start flying down to Milo. Irritated, he tries to swat at them with a roll of toilet paper, but it bursts into flames upon contact. He then notices the other fireflies landing on the other crews' tents, spontaneously setting them on fire where they land. He looks up, notices an entire swarm of them descending on the camp. Milo can only utter this stunned non-sequitur: "Fire."

  • Milo learning that his friends only came to Atlantis to plunder its treasure by force (and are armed with guns) can be this and a real Gut Punch for the audience.
    • Look at Mole. When Milo asks what all the guns are for, he gives a surprisingly sadistic little Slasher Smile.

  • The Crystal Chamber can be considered Nightmare Fuel, if only in the sense that it's an eerie environment. Think about it: It's underneath the city, in a darkly-lit cave, where the only light source is the Heart of Atlantis, which gives off a creepy, blue glow. Not to mention that, hovering around the Heart, are huge, ominous rocks carved to resemble the faces of ancient Atlantean Kings. It also emenates a faint, mysterious humming sound (closed captions describe it as murmuring voices, which makes it more disturbing). Then Rourke kicks a pebble into the water, and the Crystal's color suddenly goes from ethereal blue to blood red and the ominous humming becomes louder. To a child watching the movie for the first time, it can be somewhat unsettling.
    Helga: C'mon, let's get this over with! I don't like this place.
  • Seeing Rourke's men get absolutely destroyed and killed by the protagonists in the final fight becomes unsettling when you realize, besides the main characters, they were the last survivors from the crew besides the ones killed by the Leviathan and that the protagonists basically committed mass murder by blasting the remainder of the crew to bits with lasers without a hint of remorse. All this happened after the protagonists already had a funeral service for the ones that already died and protested to killing people they were affiliated with.
    • Sort-of justified, since they were going to kill off an entire civilization just for profit.
    • Just the nature of the remaining batch of crewmembers who work for Rourke. Applying Rule of Symbolism, there's something inhuman about how they are almost always wearing gas masks, as opposed to the starting crewmembers, who you felt bad for when they are killed by the Leviathan attack. But theses guys? You can't see their faces, making them cold and alien.


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