WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Aquaman, in theaters now.
The DC Extended Universe of films has not really had a whole lot of compelling villains. Despite boasting some of the top names in supervillainy, none of them have really stood out. Man of Steel introduced a potentially compelling Zod, but turned him into a boring brawler by the end of the film. Lex Luthor is confusing instead of threatening, Joker is infuriating instead of frightening and Ares is boring instead intimidating. The less said about the Enchantress and Steppenwolf, the better.
While it may not seem like a high bar to cross, it's still impressive to see how strong the primary villain of Aquaman is. Orm (Patrick Wilson) serves as the main threat of the film, looking to cause a war against humanity. But his actions, while brutal, come from an understandable concern for the kingdom he's inherited. Alongside Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), Orm makes for a phenomenal villain and arguably the best bad guy in the DCEU.
Orm, if nothing else, is fully committed to the sea. When he tries to rally the other kingdoms of the sea to his cause, he cites the pollution and damage that the people on the surface world have brought to the oceans. And he's not wrong. Oceans are full of garbage and chemicals that kill marine life in droves, and the effect it's having on the entire planet is destroying the cultures under the sea. That gives Orm the easy urgency to want to form an army and to go to war.
In the current age of climate change, it makes sense why the people who live in the oceans would be pretty exhausted by the people on land. Alone, that makes for a fairly one-note villain. It doesn't justify the full-blown hatred that he brings to the rest of the world, but it at least gives him a reason to be a supervillain and want to destroy the world. But it's not enough to make him a completely complicated character. That comes from the exploration of what really drives his hatred, and why he commits to the destruction of humanity: Because they're the reason his mother is gone.
Mamma's Baby Boy
The loss of his mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), serves as the primary motivation for Arthur throughout Aquaman. His disconnect from Atlantis is fueled by his anger over the treatment of her by her own people, and it has made him short-tempered and unforgiving. Orm and his love for his mother isn't treated as any less valid than the pain Arthur goes through, and that's an important factor for the film to recognize.
At one point in the film, Orm reveals that he used to wonder what having Arthur in his life would have been like. There's a yearning for the family that was doomed before it ever began, and a real sense of tragedy to the relationship between Arthur and Orm. The loss of their mother has locked the two in conflict. Both sons blame the other for the end to their innocence and take out all their anger at the world on each other.