SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains spoilers from Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

Has Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom inspired anyone else to revisit the original 2018 film? It really drove home how far each of these characters have come, especially Orm. In many ways, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was a redemption film, as we saw the former war criminal make peace with his brother and save the planet.

(He also ate two cockroaches. That’s something I’ve never seen in a redemption story.)

The original Aquaman film had Arthur up against two super-villains, Ocean Master and Black Manta. Both villains are back for the sequel, but their stories each go in different directions. That got me thinking about what made their paths diverge. What drove Black Manta deeper into villainy, while Ocean Master was pushed towards redemption? To determine why this might be, I rewatched both films a few more times (as if I needed an excuse).

As you watch Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, it’s easy to forget just how vicious Orm was in the original film. He was willing to eradicate the entire surface world, which is essentially genocide. He committed regicide, murdering the Fisherman King, Ricou. He used deceit to endanger the other underwater kingdoms, while making backdoor deals with pirates.

David Kane’s crimes were on a smaller scale. He was a mercenary who didn’t care who he hurt. When Aquaman allowed his father to die, Kane was consumed by his thirst for revenge. Ocean Master gave him the means to hunt down Arthur, but it’s clear that Kane didn’t need an excuse. He had nothing but pure hatred for the man who killed his father and would go to any lengths to stop him.

Orm and Kane were both evil, but their evil plans were on a different scale. Orm was committing regicide and planning genocide, while Kane simply wanted revenge for the death of his father. Pretend it’s 2018 and you’ve just watched the first Aquaman film, and someone told you one of those villains would be redeemed in the sequel. I will be honest, based on the scale of their dark designs, I would’ve guessed Kane.

But then we cut to Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Kane is ready to murder an infant and destroy the entire planet. You have to admit, that is a pretty large jump in terms of destructiveness. Meanwhile, Orm is fighting by Aquaman’s side, putting aside his personal feelings. How did we get here?

We can blame the Black Trident, but I don’t think that is telling the whole story. When Kane obtained the Black Trident, he became influenced by Kordax. Under that influence, he used Atlantis’ Orichalcum reserves to speed up global warming, freeing Kordax, but endangering the entire planet in the process. Manta did that under the promise of power from Kordax.

However, I’m not ready to blame Kane’s descent entirely on Kordax. Don’t forget, Orm also touched the Black Trident, but he was able to overcome Kordax’s influence. That tells me that whatever moral compass separated the two, it didn’t come from the Black Trident, but from within themselves. In other words, Kane would still be eviler than Orm without the Black Trident.

Perhaps we should look at the journeys each of their characters went on between movies. Kane spent years hunting for Atlantean tech so he could rebuild his Black Manta suit and kill Aquaman. As the years passed, he never let go of his hatred or desire for revenge.  Meanwhile Orm spent years imprisoned, where he was starved, dehydrated and tortured. Something like that could give a man time to reflect. Did his fatigued state cause his hatred to weaken? Maybe Orm would still have the energy to hate Arthur if he had been given more sips of water.

I don’t think that’s it either.

I think this can all be traced back to their parents. For David Kane, the death of his father was the most defining moment of his life. During his father’s final moments, he told Kane to survive so that he could kill Aquaman. Jesse Kane’s final moments were not spent on compassion or remorse, they were used for hatred and revenge. That energy was passed onto David Kane, and it fueled his reason for existing. After all, it was his father’s dying wish.

Orm is a curious case. We don’t know much about his father King Orvax, but what we know isn’t pretty. Orvax sentenced Orm’s mother Atlanna to death and raised Orm with the belief that the surface world needed to be eradicated. Like Kane, Orm’s entire worldview was shaped by his father, but he also had something Kane didn’t—Atlanna.

The return of Queen Atlanna changed everything. Growing up, everything he knew about his mother was shaped by the stories his father told. With nobody around to contradict it, Orm bought into his father’s narrative. Atlanna’s returned challenged that. How would you feel if your father ordered the execution of your mother when you were a child? Then think about how you would feel as an adult to learn that your mother was alive this whole time.

Atlanna’s return probably caused Orm to rethink everything he had been told by his father. Maybe his mother hadn’t deserved her fate. In Orm’s eyes, Atlanna had every reason to hate him. Orm had become a tyrant, attacked his half-brother and was ready to begin a violent global conquest. Yet, Atlanna had nothing but compassion for her son. She forgave him for his actions and knew that he had the power to change. Instead of anger and disgust, Atlanna had nothing but love for Orm. 

Kane’s father gave him a mission of hate, while Orm’s mother gave him love and forgiveness. That’s why Orm was able to redeem himself and Kane wasn’t. When you break it down, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a film about love conquering hate. Ocean Master found a reason to live and grow due to love, while Black Manta lived for hate…and very likely died for it.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, directed by James Wan and featuring Jason Momoa as Aquaman, is now in theaters. For news, trailers and other features on the King of Atlantis, visit our official Aquaman hub page.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.