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?
- 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 destroy 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.
- It's not just the Leviathan but all Atlantis energy weapons cause this as shown briefly in the climatic battle.
- 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.
- Something else scary is that it's explicitly linked to the Biblical Leviathan in Milo's presentation. Meaning that in this Universe, at least one of Atlantis' machines was so horrifying and all-powerful that it directly influenced parts of The Holy Bible.
- 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.
- 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.
- It's entirely possible that the wars between Atlantis and other ancient civilizations were much more even than we are led to believe. This is a setting where magic and spirits exist in tandem with humans and are known to be manipulated by them. Who's to say there wasn't a equivalent to the Heart of Atlantis in other parts of the world.
- It just points out what a horrible war monger the king used to be and just how much he has to regret from his past. Due to the way the Leviathan toys with its targets and goes out of its way to kill them even after destroying the main ship, it was built as a terror weapon rather than an efficient war machine.
- Watching it destroy the Ulysses. Good God, so many people die. On-screen!
- Rourke, the Big Bad of the movie.
Rourke: I know I'm forgetting something. I got the cargo, crystal, crew...oh, yeah! (punches Milo in the face) Look at it this way, son. You were the man who discovered Atlantis, and now you're part of the exhibit.
- When Rourke reveals his true nature and the crew armed with guns. Worse is he takes complete willingness to condemn the Atlanteans to death despite Milo's protests.Rourke: Ya have a nice swim?
(Rourke and his crew are armed with guns!)
Milo: Hey, hey, guys. What's going on? What's... What's with all the guns? (Mole leers at him greedily) Guys? (suddenly realizes; exhales) I'm such an idiot! This is just another treasure hunt for you. You're after the crystal!
Rourke: Oh, you mean, this? (reaches into his pocket and pulls out the missing page from the Shepherd's Journal.)
Milo: The heart of Atlantis.
Rourke: Yeah, about that, I would've told you this sooner, but it was strictly on a need-to-know basis, and... Well, now you know. I had to make sure you were one of us. Welcome to the club, son.
Milo: I'm no mercenary!
(Kida is dragged from the water by Rourke's soldiers and fights them. She pins one of them and pulls out her knife, but Rourke shoots it out of her hand. His thugs grab Kida)
Rourke: "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!
Rourke: What's to know? It's big, 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!
Rourke: Well, that changes things. Helga what do you think?
Helga: Knowing that, I'd double the price.
Rourke: I was thinking triple.
- When Rourke mocks Milo of his discovery and even smashing the framed photo of the latter and his grandfather just for no reason but petty spite.
Rourke: Tired, Mr. Thatch? Aww, that's a darn shame... 'CAUSE I'M JUST GETTING WARMED UP!
- 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...
- 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 Hell. Especially the way it looks like there's fire in his mouth!
- 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. It's quite clearly excruciatingly painful. The novelization and tie in books actually mention that the crystal "recognized Rourke's evil", meaning this isn't a random effect from an alien substance-it's a wrathful, vengeful entity inflicting a hideous punishment on the one who dared desecrate it. The King really was right to keep that thing locked underground.
- The fact that he was still going after Milo even after being transformed.
- Given the nature of the crystal, its possible he retained his consciousness after he was shattered.
- When Rourke reveals his true nature and the crew armed with guns. Worse is he takes complete willingness to condemn the Atlanteans to death despite Milo's protests.
- Helga almost had an even more gruesome death than falling; she just barely missed being sliced by the propellors as she fell. Rourke was sliced up by the blades minutes later, though apparently his crystal transformation made it Bloodless Carnage. That's either better or worse.
- 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.
- After the firefly attack, an unconscious Milo ends up separated from the team and wakes up, only to find himself surrounded by the masked tribe.
- 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."
- During the attack, one poor truck driver gets burned alive when the fireflies begin attacking the front of the truck, and all he can do is vainly try to fight them off as he is surrounded by fire. Thankfully, we dont get to see all of it, and his misery was likely cut short when the fireflies ignited the nitroglycerin the truck was carrying, but its astonishingly brutal, especially for a Disney movie,
- 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.
- What's more unsettling is the part where Kida transforms into a crystal being, because anyone can tell that that's not really her anymore, just some...thing using her body as a vessel.
- While it's justified (they were going to kill off an entire civilization just for profit, and they had plenty of chances to change their minds) seeing Rourke's men get absolutely destroyed and killed by the protagonists during the climax is at least a little unsettling. They were the last survivors from the crew after most were killed by the Leviathan. All this happened after the protagonists already had a funeral service for the ones that already died. They had no choice. So justified? Yes. Still incredibly tragic? Absolutely.
- 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.