It’s simple to search out screenshots of Orlando Bloom making unusual facial expressions within the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Actually, it’s virtually a meme. And even for those who strip out all of the examples which are fleeting mid-movement expressions, or which are truly from Orlando Bloom goofing round on set in behind-the-scenes footage, you continue to wind up with quite a lot of very unusual expressions from our blonde elf good friend.
2021 marks The Lord of the Rings films’ twentieth anniversary, and we could not think about exploring the trilogy in only one story. So every Wednesday all year long, we’ll go there and again once more, analyzing how and why the movies have endured as trendy classics. That is Polygon’s Yr of the Ring.
Then there are the line-reads. Sentences like “A crimson solar rises. Blood has been spilled this evening,” delivered with depth and a straight face. The Legolas of Peter Jackson’s trilogy offers off vibes of That One Bizarre Child, somebody who appears perpetually stunned by no matter is happening round him — but additionally with a layer of curiosity, maybe even amusement. He initiatives a way that he’s aloof from no matter is happening, and likewise that he has completely no concept what’s going on.
Many would argue that this was simply Bloom’s pure bewilderedness, from being forged in his first main movie manufacturing two days after graduating from drama faculty. That learn may be true, but it surely’s additionally an ideal learn on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legolas, who’s paradoxically very outdated and really younger, and has by no means been anyplace or met anybody in his life.
Legolas is a pleasant nation boy
That is Legolas as we first see him, trying round Rivendell like he’s by no means seen fancy elves earlier than. It’s because he hasn’t. He’s from a society of, in a nutshell, the least fancy elves on Center-earth.
This may sound unusual due to how Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films confirmed us that Legolas’ dad wears gold brocade and rides a totally pointed elk into battle, however the elves of Mirkwood are the least ethereal selection you will discover within the time interval of the Lord of the Rings story. Elrond and Galadriel’s individuals have lived a life a lot nearer to Center-earth’s gods than Legolas’, and it exhibits of their method, gown, and structure.
On high of that, Legolas’ father Thranduil is an isolationist ruler. His persons are sequestered in a harmful forest, they usually merely don’t get out a lot or welcome many guests. Legolas is the elven equal of a child who grew up with out cable TV, pop music, or assembly anybody his dad and mom didn’t know by identify. Like the remainder of the Fellowship, he joined the ring quest principally as a result of he was a succesful one that occurred to be in Rivendell when the group was being assembled, not as a result of he was already an excellent hero.
Legolas is child
One other of Legolas’ most-memed traces is when he walks into the clearly very outdated forest and says with confidence and relish that … it’s outdated. Distinction this second with the total line from Tolkien’s The Two Towers: “[Fangorn] is outdated, very outdated. […] So outdated that just about I really feel younger once more, as I’ve not felt since I journeyed with you youngsters.”
Legolas, you see, is accustomed to being the youngest man within the room. Tolkien was by no means particular on his age, however since Legolas has by no means been to Lothlorien earlier than the Fellowship visits, we will say he was in all probability born after the shadow in Mirkwood grew so harmful that journey was lower off between Thranduil and Galadriel’s kingdoms. That was about two thousand years in the past. For context, Legolas’ dad was alive throughout the First Age, which makes him over 600 thousand years outdated.
That is the dichotomy of Legolas: To people, he’s unfathomably outdated. However for an elf, he’s a teeny tiny child with no life expertise who has by no means left residence earlier than. And he’s all the time going to be a teeny tiny child — a prince who won’t ever be a king — as a result of elves don’t die.
Legolas can’t be killed in a means that issues
Orlando Bloom’s line reads for Legolas may make you are feeling like everybody round him ought to be one another with the worldwide facial features for “Is that this man for actual?” However when the tomb through which his pals’ bones are buried is rendered to sand by the weather, Legolas will nonetheless be sitting on that seaside, ingesting wine.
In a really possible way, nearly nothing that happens round Legolas carries any weight for him. Elves may be killed, however they can not really die. With out going right into a full clarification of the workings of elven immortality, dying neither cuts an elf off from their family members without end, nor prevents them from returning to Center-earth.
Legolas has completely no private expertise with dying, and this area is the place the alternatives Bloom made for Legolas turn out to be pitch good. When the Fellowship exits Moria and, to a person, collapse in tears, weeping for Gandalf, their fallen chief, that is what Legolas appears to be like like:
This can be a man who has actually by no means recognized somebody who died earlier than. He has no concept what the individuals round him are doing, a lot much less whether or not he ought to be doing it too.
Right here he’s reacting to Aragorn and Boromir’s touching closing moments collectively:
Probably the most emotion Legolas exhibits in the entire trilogy may be when he argues with Aragorn concerning the knowledge of retreating to Helm’s Deep. It bothers him deeply that every one these already short-lived individuals — together with his closest pals — have accepted their mortality. It’s as if he desires to seize Aragorn by the collar and go “Don’t you already know that for those who die in actual life, you’ll die in actual life?????”
From sheer confusion over Gandalf’s demise to Helm’s Deep to the second in The Return of the King when he smiles on the concept of dying side-by-side with a dwarf, Legolas’ schooling on the character of mortality may be the closest factor he has to a not-Gimli-related story arc.
Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh didn’t have time to unpack any of this — the workings of elven immortality, Legolas’ upbringing, his age — within the script of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There’s an excessive amount of to do, and Legolas is just too minor a personality. (Even Tolkien himself admitted that the elf “in all probability achieved the least” of the 9 members of the Fellowship. A devastating burn.)
However they didn’t go away it on the cutting-room flooring, both. Peter Jackson relies upon nearly solely on Bloom’s appearing — his disoriented facial expressions and earnest intonation — to speak all of those concepts. Bloom’s face conveys a paradoxical attachment and detachment. He’s hooked up to the mortals he’s grown near, however essentially indifferent from the mortal world as they perceive it. Generally, one of the best ways to play an aloof, ethereal being is to simply appear like a complete weirdo.