Three Thousand Years of Longing, 2022.
Directed by George Miller.
Starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.
George Miller may have at least one more Mad Max movie in the works, but that hasn’t stopped him from dipping his toe into other waters too, as he’s done many times in his career. In this case, he’s taken a break from all-out action to helm Three Thousand Years of Longing, a modern-day update of a very old type of fable.
I’ve long admired how director George Miller doesn’t let Hollywood pigeonhole him, despite his huge success early in his career with the first two action-packed Mad Max films. He also wasn’t pigeonholed by himself — some people might use such an opportunity to double down on the action movie thing and make that their brand, so to speak.
But not Miller. His filmography over the past 40+ years has widely varied, from movies like Babe and Happy Feet to Lorenzo’s Oil and another Mad Max movie, with a fifth in the works. And now he’s directed Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Tilda Swinton as a bookish, reclusive scholar named Alithea Binnie who unwittingly unleashes a Djinn (Idris Elba) from a bottle during a business trip to Istanbul.
As is customary, the Djinn offers Alithea three wishes that will fulfill her heart’s desires, but being a well-read woman, she’s wary of the gesture. She knows how many stories involving Djinn end with the wisher being tricked into something they didn’t really want.
To try to convince her she’s not going to end up like the others, the Djinn proceeds to tell three stories from his past that will not only explain how he ended up in the particular bottle Alithea bought, but also how he ended up on the wrong end of the wish transaction on multiple occasions.
The Djinn’s stories wind their way through part of Turkish history, starting with the Queen of Sheba (yes, she may not have really existed, but this is just a story) and proceeding through the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, the reign of Murad IV and Ibrahim, and finally with the Djinn ending up in the hands of the wife of a Turkish merchant.
The stories flip between flashbacks and the present day in Alithea’s hotel room. Eventually she uses one of her wishes and she and the Djinn develop a close relationship that continues after her return to London.
Like “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” the A.S. Byatt story on which Three Thousand Years is based, this film is an attempt to bring old fables into the modern world. As such, Alithea turns out to be a fairly one-dimensional character who can’t be developed much, given the amount of time the Djinn’s stories take.
The end result is a tale that feels like it should have more oomph in the telling. The Djinn’s stories could have been shortened a bit to allow for more modern-day scenes with him and Alithea, but I suppose that’s the 21st century moviegoer in me talking.
These kinds of fables have been a key part of human history, so it’s not hard to imagine that a few hundred years ago, someone might have taken a similar approach with what was then a modern-day character freeing a Djinn and hearing those stories.
In the end, while Three Thousand Years of Longing will likely be pushed aside in Miller’s oeuvre, it’s still a film worth experiencing, whether or not you’re a hardcore fan of the director. And I appreciate that Miller is still willing to make movies like this one, rather than trying to helm the Mad Max Cinematic Universe or something along those lines.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. didn’t commission a single bonus feature for this Blu-ray edition, which is surprising. They couldn’t even toss in the theatrical trailer? I can’t imagine this is the kind of movie that will be slated for a beefed-up edition sometime down the road, unless it becomes a cult classic, so I suppose that’s all Warner Bros. wanted to put into it, which is a shame.
However, you do get a code for a digital copy, so there’s that. And the copy I received says “Blu-ray + DVD” on the front, but there’s no DVD inside. That’s not a huge deal, since I can’t imagine watching a movie on DVD ever again, but it’s something to keep in mind if you pick this one up.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★