WARNING: The following contains spoilers in director James Wan's Aquaman, in theaters now.
When it comes to superhero movies, everyone ultimately ends up talking about the villain more than the hero. Loved Black Panther? Killmonger stole the show. Same with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Fans will remember Orm and Black Manta in Aquaman, but neither of them are the true villain of the film. Unfortunately, we're unlikely to ever see the real bad guy.
If you've seen the movie and paid attention to their motivations, you'll know exactly who we're talking about. The real villain in Aquaman is none other than Orvax, who is never seen on-screen at any point in the movie. Who? OK, you're forgiven if you missed reference to this character, especially on the first viewing, but it's true. Orm's father, former king of Atlantis and the would-be murderer of Atlanna, is the real villain here.
But the man's dead. In fact, it would seem he's been dead for quite some time when the film starts, so how exactly can he be responsible for the events of Aquaman? It would seem that our influence over others, especially the vulnerable, persists long after we are gone.
A Villain Born From a Toxic Environment
Orvax is the former king of Atlantis. Following Atlanna's trip to the surface world that produced Arthur Curry, she returned to her kingdom to fulfill her duty. She married Orvax, who then became mad with power and had his queen executed. Under his rule, Atlantis embraced isolationism and increased their disdain for the surface world. However, his greatest crime is shaping the mind of his son.
As bad as Orm is in the movie, it's Orvax who turned him into the monster we see today. Orm kills those who disagree with him and bullies his people around, but it is eventually made clear that he's not truly evil. He simply wishes to make Atlantis safe from harm by eliminating its most dangerous rivals -- humanity.
Unfortunately, he is filled with so much hatred and pain from the loss of his mother and the toxic influence of his father, that he can no longer see how broken he has become. In reality, a war with the surface world doesn't make his people safer, it puts them in harm's way and creates an enemy where there wasn't one before.
Who put him down this path? His father. It was the former king of Atlantis who lied to him about his mother's fate, leaving Orm to blame the surface world for his loss. This brewing hatred and the access to the military might of his people allowed him to gain power and pick up where his father left off. Orvax successfully manipulated his son into doing his deranged biding, even from beyond the grave.