So I've seen the final part of The Hobbit trilogy twice now, and true to my fangirl nature I will now deliver a deep analysis of it as I tend to when an experience of some kind has immensely shaken my core - which this movie has undeniably done.
Instead of talking about one of the main storylines, Thorin's that is, I just have a few words to say about our lovely Elves. I would have plenty to say about Dwarves as well but as they are at the centre of the film anyway I don't feel particularly obliged to. The visualisation and dramatisation of Thorin's dragon sickness is astounding, and in the context of a fantasy film where the attention is mostly paid to the heroism and strength of the protagonists, I find that this portrayal of mental illness and addiction rooted in both genetics and unresolved trauma is absolutely singular.
However, there is someone else whose trauma is equally as complex and important for the greater arch of the story - the Elvenking Thranduil. Now, I imagine that most moviegoers see him either as a total dick or kind of ridiculous in his grandiosity - or both. Compared to a fellow Elf lord, Elrond, Thranduil is cold, distant and materialistic. He doesn't really seem to care what is going on outside the borders of his woodland kingdom unless there are treasures to be won. Where Elrond and Galadriel are deeply concerned for the future of Middle Earth; where Legolas has a passion to fight the evil; and where later on Arwen gives up her immortality for a mortal man, Thranduil would rather just brood within the vast halls of his fort and not have anything to do with anyone outside of it.
And then Peter Jackson does something amazing that gives depth to the character, and makes me write about it. For the first time we get a little glimpse to Legolas' and Thranduil's past as we learn how Legolas' mother died during the wars that Elves once fought in the land of Angmar. It becomes clear that the loss of his wife - and undoubtedly many of his friends and warriors in those battles is what has broken Thranduil's heart and forced him to grow an impenetrably thick skin that no emotion is allowed to pierce. There is no doubt that he cares deeply for his own, and wants to protect them by any cost - even if that makes him isolate from all other peoples of Middle Earth. He does what so many of us do when a crisis hits: we turn inwards, we hide and we pretend that nothing matters because if we were to open ourselves for the pain of loss, we fear that it might devour us whole.
And when asking for help feels like weakness we would rather become stone.
For me, one of the most heartwrenching moments of the movie was when after exiling Tauriel and telling her that her feelings for Kili aren't real and that she's basically a fool who knows nothing of love and suffering, Thranduil goes back to her as she's mourning over Kili's body, and in his very distant and unemotional way comforts her. I don't even know if it can be called comforting but anyway, that scene made me sob even more than I already was.
I can't explain it so you'll just have to go and see for yourselves.
All of this also provides a little more depth to Legolas' character, even for his later adventures in The Lord of the Rings (or you know, earlier). First, as I started thinking about his story and the persisting hatred toward Dwarves, I didn't quite know how to make these two film trilogies fit together since the chronologically later one was obviously made some ten years before this one. I mean, in The Battle of the Five Armies Legolas goes against his father's and king's orders by helping the Dwarves against Orcs, and yet he's very hostile towards Gimli when they first meet. Yes, mostly Legolas is just smitten with Tauriel who as a crush on Kili, so there we go, and that's why he follows her to the battle. But there's the scene where Legolas is fighting what's-his-ugly-face Bolg (?) when he sees that Thorin is about to be outnumbered, and sacrifices his last weapons to save him. And yet, 60 years later when the Fellowship is formed Legolas still dislikes Dwarves.
So, I then I thought about my own grandparents who had to flee their homes in the far East regions of Finland that now belong to Russia during the Second World War, and how that hatred toward Russians was inherited by my dad, and slightly by my own brother. It is always such an easy resolution to find someone to blame when a terrible thing happens; and generations later when no one really has anything to do with that terrible thing anymore the bitterness lives on. It's like there are traumas live in our genetics, and become shared memories between families and tribes and nations. And to me, this makes Legolas' character whole and interesting. He keeps hold of that old grudge, perhaps as an emotional link to his father, but finally lets go and becomes the best of friends with Gimli. I've always found the development of Gimli and Legolas' friendship a beautiful story, and especially now that I've seen that for both of them previous encounters with another's kin have been massively tainted with loss and grief.
Also, baring in mind that Elves live forever and by the time that these sagas are set they'd already lived in Middle Earth for thousands of years, it is no wonder that most of them are a bit stuck-up. If I had lived for that long and seen many wars and lost hundreds of people I would probably just want to sit in my castle and drink wine and not give two shits about the next disaster and if there are a couple of Human or Dwarf casualties.
So, haters, don't hate Thranduil for being a selfish bitch. Don't hate Thorin for acting like a dick. They just need a hug and a therapist. Hate Azog. And hate Sauron. And listen to Elrond because he's usually right.