In true George Miller fashion, the Aussie filmmaking legend’s latest release, Three Thousand Years of Longing, is epic, colorful, fantastical, wild — and an expected flop at the box-office.
Miller built a legacy with his Mad Max franchise (1979-2015), producing Chris Noonan’s Babe (1995) and directing the sequel, Pig in the City (1998). But Three Thousand Years received hardly any promotion and was just casually placed at the end of the summer film schedule as if the studio didn’t expect much. If the Oscar-friendly Mad Max reboot Fury Road (2015) couldn’t succeed with audiences, a plotless, wonderous genie-themed fantasy-drama isn’t going to either.
Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a single, childless literary scholar who is out of town for a conference in Istanbul, Turkey. While ordering room service in her hotel, she starts washing an antique she bought in the city — releasing a magical genie. The supernatural being, known as a djinn (Idris Elba), then tell his life story to Alithea while convincing her to free him of his imprisonment with three wishes.
Three Thousand Years is loosely based on a 1994 novella called The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt. Fortunately, Miller and script partner Augusta Gore choose to not overstay their welcome and kept their screen adaptation at only 100 minutes.
It’s very dialogue heavy on the ethos and purpose of wishes; the actual magical elements are fleeting, yet always present. A good 25% of the film takes place in that small hotel room rather than in a fairytale setting.
Elba and Swinton are fine as leads, and it was interesting to see an old-fashioned genie portrayed enjoying things present-day humans do. But Swinton’s intense Irish brogue for Alithea gets a bit tiring.
I don’t mind philosophical discussion on the ethics of superpowers, but there’s too much backstory and subplot in this movie. 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.