Put the djinni back in the bottle — Three Thousand Years of Longing’s script never reaches the story’s unlimited potential.
This review of the film Three Thousand Years of Longing does not contain any spoilers or significant plot points.
I wish George Miller had not played it so safe with Three Thousand Years of Longing and just ripped the Band-Aid off. His script is a cheap imitation of his talents, as if the eccentric filmmaking genius took a handful of stimulants to build a ceiling to limit the film’s potential madcap creativity. Has Mr. Miller, the man behind such visionary work as the Mad Max franchise and Babe: Pig in the City, made a family live-action film for the George Miller genre? Unfortunately, the jokes are lame, and the romance runs flat, all while the script never rises above the story’s unlimited potential.
The film follows Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), an academic scholar who is an expert on ancient mythical deities or gods that has eventually led to today’s superheroes. Alithea is speaking in Turkey when she starts to see these mythical creatures everywhere — the airport, the lecture hall, and her hotel room. Mainly a Djinn (played by Idris Elba) that just broke out of a beautiful blue stained glass bottle Alithea purchased at a local shop around the corner. He wants to grant her three wishes, but she is being stubborn about it. They exchange stories about our newly released deity who cannot stop talking about himself. He needs Alithea to grant his wishes to set him free.
Miller adapted the script from a book of mythical short stories from A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye. It is a visually beautiful film, with striking special effects that capture the mind’s eye. However, the script is incoherent, trying to incorporate themes from the work’s main story and accompanying shorts. (There is no coherent connection getting the viewer from the film’s beginning events to its third act that makes particular sense). The film forgoes making a connection to comparing Djinn’s remembrances to examine themes of contemporary society for a reasonably quick transition to a brief and, frankly, unmemorable romance. Miller’s first two acts are Disney live-action-esque, while the finale is underwhelming.
Three Thousand Years of Longing desperately needed more running time to flesh out the romance between the lead characters in the third act for a greater payoff. Swinton’s turn as Alithea reaches levels of tender love as you see her transition from cynical academic to tender loving bliss. I wish Elba’s Djinn displayed more consistent emotion that undercut the storytelling’s overall tone that was too overly composed. The final scenes are rushed and incomplete.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is not as nearly ambitious as it wants to be and, as a result, never reaches the film’s goals. Miller brings a comatose tone, bland storytelling, with impressive special effects and some revolting images — I am not talking about the dozens of naked bodies, but I want one of Djinn’s wishes to erase the image of someone’s disgusting hand covered in God knows what, from my memory — make his film far from analeptic. Here is hoping the legendary director can return to rubbing his audience the right way.
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