It’s not that I wished I hadn’t watched Three Thousand Years of Longing, George Miller’s deconstruction of a Djinn’s fulfillment offerings. There are fascinating moments and the maker of the Mad Max franchise will always be good for a visual spectacle. By its conclusion, I wished I’d been more compelled by its narratologist lead Alithea (Tilda Swinton). Early on she expresses that she finds her feelings via stories. That translates to her personal life where she claims to be content being a loner. In her professional life, Alithea basically regales conference attendees and students with her takes about grand tales and the mythology behind them.
While on assignment in Istanbul, she purchases an antique artifact that summons the Djinn (Idris Elba) in her hotel lavatory. The London scholar is soon presented with a predictable request – three wishes for the pointy eared visitor’s freedom. She doesn’t bite because her occupation tells her that the genie story is always cautionary in nature.
Alithea does get what she wants for awhile as the pair converse in their bathrobes. Djinn provides her with his history of being bottled and not bottled. As the title suggests, it’s 30 centuries of anecdotes and they involve harems of plus size concubines and being part of a Solomon and Sheba love triangle. The most effective involves a captive love interest (Burca Golgedar) whose genius inventions are ahead of their time and not proper for her gender to tout.
I will acknowledge that Longing is unpredictable in a frequently fun way as Djinn recounts his unique brand of cautionary tales (Alithea’s not exactly wrong with her gut reaction). The interplay between Swinton and Elba allows for some humorous and highly entertaining passages. When their association rises to a higher level, it’s where I felt Miller and cowriter Augusta Gore’s screenplay doesn’t emotionally land. The lover from the lamp’s past is more spellbinding than his present with Alithea. That makes the third act, in particular, disappointing and made me long for more from this story.
**1/2 (out of four)