It should be clear to anyone who’s seen either The Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit films that the laws of physics don’t apply to flaxen-haired elf prince Legolas. But now a new analysis from Wired explores just how much gravity alters in Legolas’ presence.
Over the course of the five films in which he appears, Legolas does stuff like walk on top of snowdrifts others sink into, ride a shield down stairs while shooting his bow and arrow, surf on an oliphant trunk, and use two daggers to steer a troll. But there’s an even more elaborate setpiece in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies that sees Legolas survive a bridge collapse by climbing up the stones falling around him.
Wired’s Rhett Allain set about exploring the physics of that death-defying stunt, assuming Middle Earth has the same gravitational field as Earth and Legolas is as tall as Orlando Bloom, the actor who plays him. Using a Tracker Video Analysis and some basic physics formulas, he then calculates the speed and force Legolas would need to maintain in order to dart up those falling rocks to safety.
The results aren’t particularly satisfying to those who want truth in fiction: Legolas would have to jump higher and push harder than seems physical possible to escape the collapse (which, again, isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility for an elf). To prove that point, Allain links to this nifty Mythbusters video in which the gang tries to see if a human can run up a collapsing suspension bridge. Unlike Legolas, Jamie Hyneman can’t change the laws of gravity on a whim.
Ultimately, Allain’s conclusion is less a scientific one than a literary one. He writes:
Really, I like to remind myself of the role Legolas had in the book version of the Hobbit. Yes, he had no role. I think the movie version of The Hobbit (all three movies) would have been better without Legolas.
While we’re applying science to Peter Jackson’s films, we’d next like to see a psychologist explain why Thranduill is such a dick.
Read Allain’s full analysis on Wired.