I’ve always been very much on the side of “Thranduil and Legolas had a good relationship” when it comes to their history together, especially given Galadriel’s statement of how Legolas grew up in joy (admittedly that wasn’t in the movies, tho) and, while watching the movies, I was initially wary of how things were portrayed, the closer I looked, the more I’m still firmly on the side of, “Yeah, that little elfling was totally doted on.”
(This is helped by the actors confirming that father and son love each other incredibly deeply, as well as Phillipa Boyen confirmed that, yeah, of course they reconcile between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.)
My view on this largely comes from the way they react to each other, even when there’s doubt and hurt and strife there. I mean, this is not the face of an elf who was not encouraged to speak his mind:
No, I’m pretty sure that’s an elf who was brought up to ask questions, to say his thoughts, to have strong convictions. (As well as maybe being a little spoiled, because—well, I’ll get into that.) As well as, when you look at the way Thranduil reacts to Legolas, there is no point at which Thranduil is cruel to him or yells at him or expresses anger towards him, even when he would be justified in doing so. There’s never any, “You sit back down, shut up, and mind your place.”
When Legolas says harsh words to his father, the reaction is instead:
So, I’m going to look at their scenes across the movies and see just what kind of dynamic they really do have. This is entirely movie-based (as it would have to be, of course), so I will be focusing on their personalities and interactions here for this post.
Bravo to myrkvidrs for a detailed look at this. As myrkvidrs postulates in this deep-dive analysis, there is a lot that confirms the relationship between Thranduil and Legolas is not as negative as the initial impression that one gets.
Even though the characterisations serve the scripts, which can be so maddeningly problematic while paying attention to nuances, much of the details and nuance are down to the actors’ ability to convey the emotion and intensity; with all due respect to Orlando Bloom, on Lee Pace’s part in particular.
The pity is that the general audience is not going to spend time studying the nuances, not even if they do see the movies repeatedly. They will, and do, form initial impressions and leave with those initial impressions.
And therein again the rub is while the brilliant portrayal is brilliant, the effort of the talent and the detailed layers crafted is wasted on a big population of the audience. Within the framework of a movie series that has so much going on, some things do need to be DEMONSTRATED overtly. Ironically, despite my gripes about the movies, I do feel this is a case where the common denominator needs to be given consideration and paid attention to. Editing is so tight, and the focus so otherly placed, there is no time for character moments to breath, and this particular relationship suffered, badly.