de facto film reviews 2.5 stars

The first film since George Miller made a monumental critical and commercial splash with Mad Max: Fury Road just 7 years ago, Three Thousand Years of Longing features all the aspects you would want in a Miller film: spectacle, scope, a singular vision, and it’s undeniably crisply made. However, the film has some shortcomings with some muddled storytelling, odd pacing, and inadequate CGI. George Miller’s 11th feature film, in which he co-wrote the script along with Augusta Gore, is an adaptation based on A.S. Byatt’s 1994 short story titled The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, which draws inspiration from the mythology of the Djnn that is closer to a modern retelling of Arabian Nights that still stays true to the mythology of the iconic “Genie in a Bottle” trope.

This marks the third time Miller has adapted from a novel, the other two being The Witches of Eastwick and Babe: Pig in the City, and Miller’s first time collaborating with the great Tilda Swinton, who is certainly a perfect fit to work in the realm of such a gifted visionary. While this has all the markings of being a triumphant piece of cinema, unfortunately, the writing and third act come off as slight and not particularly cohesive in terms of exposition, storytelling, and structure. There is certainly something visionary about the film, but the film doesn’t quite ignite its characterization or themes as many of its supporting characters come lightly sketched as many elements of the storytelling feel skimmed over.

Three Thousand Years of Longing': All talk and no magic | The Spokesman-Review

The film opens with Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), an academic and world-renowned narratologist who specializes in the process of storytelling. After a speech on mythology and how it molds modern narratives today in fiction and comic books—Alithea ends up walking into her own bizarre narrative after she buys a small glass bottle in a market in Istanbul. As she relaxes in her hotel room, Alithea ends up inadvertently liberating a giant man named Djin (Idris Elba) from the bottle. He is naked, has pointy ears, and is nearly the size of the Incredible Hulk. From here the film mostly becomes a two handler where Alba and Swinton debate the concept and tropes of storytelling inside of a very bland hotel.

Djinn feels very liberated, considering he has been trapped in a bottle for nearly a thousand years. He informs her that she must make three wishes of anything she wants—but being the expert in storytelling that she is, Alithea is very skeptical of the wishes because she knows the narratives and mythologies involving wishes and genies over time do not end well for the person making all the wishes. After fending off her wishes, she begins to pry about Djinn’s past experiences, in which he ends up telling her three separate stories from his life’s experience of being a genie. Each story involves women, which all involve him getting released from the bottle, and eventually landing back into the bottle, and into very untraceable places like the bottom of the ocean floor and beneath marble floors.

Review: Love, hope and 'Three Thousand Years of Longing' | AP News

Each of the narrative threads holds such potential but never quite reaches its scope due to some odd pacing issues that bounces between feeling pokey and hurried. The first narrative set in the setting is a tale between Sheba (Aaminto Lagum) and King Solom (Nicholas Maouwad), which is certainly the most inert and least involving of the three. The most interesting element is the second segment that takes place in the Ottoman Empire. It features busty concubines, fetishism, and royalty that feels like it has the makings of a Fellini film, but that hint of greatness is quickly abandoned as it drifts away from that narrative quite quickly. The third segment involves Djinn falling for a Zefir (Burcu Goldegar), who is enslaved as a bride to an elderly merchant and has many artistic talents that is forbidden by the current patriarchy at the time. Djin attempts to empower Zefir to make more wishes to liberate herself from her confinement, but she ends up growing very hostile and their relationship doesn’t end well.

Three Thousand Years of Longing navigates through Djinn’s minefield of chaos, failed romance, and the fears others have of the unknown as the film unfolds like a novella. None of the historical flashbacks or spectacles ever feel as elaborate as you would expect from the iconic filmmaker of Mad Max, and sadly, the history never feels rich. Miller’s latest has all the ingredients of being a memorable fantastical film, but it’s actually at its most comfortable when it explores the characterizations of Djinn and Alithea, especially in its final act where both characters confess their longings and loneliness experienced. The romance between Swinton and Elba is endearing, and when they are actually sharing screen time together, you feel their warmth and offbeat chemistry together. The film he becomes an ode to the power of storytelling and mythos. However, it doesn’t feel quite as rewarding or as earned, simply because the previous adventures never fully satisfies and is left underwritten. Certainly, more character depth for both characters was crucial in capturing the genuine pathos that the film is striving for. Even with so much going for it, Miller’s latest remains a film of great potential that sadly doesn’t fully engage due to its missteps and misguided detours.