By Megan Bianco
In true George Miller fashion, the Aussie filmmaking legend’s latest release, Three Thousand Years of Longing, is epic, colorful, fantastical, wild and— as expected—a flop at the box office.
While Miller has gained a legacy for his Mad Max franchise (1979-2015), producing Chris Noonan’s Babe (1995) and directing the sequel, Pig in the City (1998), himself, I wasn’t surprised Three Thousand Years of Longing seemed to get hardly any promotional hype and was just casually placed at the end of the summer film schedule.
In present day, Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a single, childless literary scholar who is out of town for a conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Alithea’s specialty is storytelling—specifically, the narration of how stories are told.
While ordering room service in her hotel room, the older woman starts washing an old antique she had bought in the city, which turns out to be a bottle filled with a magical genie she unintentionally releases.
The supernatural being, known as a Djin (Idris Elba), then gets into his life story for Alithea while convincing her to free him of his imprisonment with three wishes.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is loosely based on a 1994 novella called The Djin in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt. Fortunately, Miller and script partner Augusta Gore choose to not overstay their welcome and keep their screen adaptation at only 100 minutes, rather than expand more inspiration from the source.
For the audience’s sake, it’s good that Three Thousand Years lasts less than two hours, because it is very dialogue-heavy on the ethos and purpose of wishes existing, while the actual magical elements are fleeting, yet always present because our male lead is a genie.
Elba and Swinton are fine as the leads, though Swinton’s intense Irish brogue for Alithea got a bit tiring after a while.
I don’t mind theories and philosophical discussions on the ethics of superpowers, but most of the time epic-in-scope pictures such as Three Thousand Years—especially with so much backstory and subplot—generally aren’t my thing.
While critics and MGM/United Artists are selling Three Thousand Years of Longing as “Aladdin for adults,” I think I might just stick with Aladdin.