Three Thousand Years of Longing

George Miller’s genie tale has more magic than narrative.

I hate to bore you readers with this introduction, but knowing I was seeing “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” which is about a genie released from a bottle, makes me acknowledge about how Robin Williams perfected the voice role in Disney’s “Aladdin.” Even Entertainment Weekly calls the movie: “”Aladdin”” for adults.”

But I was mostly thinking about “The Thief of Baghdad,” which was a 1940 family film, where an urchin finds a genie in a bottle. His enormous height urges him to crush the boy, until he turns the tables on him by sending him back in his bottle. He agrees to grant him 3 wishes if he releases him. He may not have been the exuberant Genie most people know and love, but he still was entertaining on various levels. And he wasn’t selling the movie. There was also a young Sulton who befriended the boy, both of whom become cursed and then revitalized, and manage to thwart the plans of the evil Jaffar (pronounced Jaffer before Jafar).

Okay. Now I’m starting to bore you. You want my opinion of “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” It’s the first feature George Miller has made since “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and while it’s not brilliant in terms of its story, it is a visual wonder on different terms. Parts of the movie use echos from “Enter the Void,” “The Neverending Story,” or even “My Dinner with Andre,” if you look close enough. But then again, I have a lot more movies to see. Let’s just say: I was reminded of those movies and the two Genie films I loved.

Tilda Swinton plays Alithea Binnie, a scholar from London, who is visiting Istanbul for a conference. She starts seeing images of strange characters, and buys a bottle that looks beautiful and strange simultaneously.

You know the deal. She rubs the bottle, and out comes the genie, who grants her 3 wishes. You can’t wish for more wishes, and you can’t wish for eternal life. I guess it’s true what they say: “Three is a Magic Number.”

Actually, this genie would also be known as a Djinn. The “D” is silent. Idris Elba portrays him with a somewhat different accent, shaved head, a red mark on his beard, and pointy ears. Alithea is baffled by this fantasy, but he’s able to ease her into his story about how he became a Djinn, how he got trapped in the bottle, and why 3 wishes must be granted at all costs.

The “My Dinner with Andre” and “The Neverending Story” combo I’m referring to has the Djinn explaining to his new master about how the people he met in his life were blinded by love and power. Parts of the stories are interesting, while other parts lag, but most of them are painted and reflected by its radiant images. They’re the kind of images that proves “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is a George Miller piece. It’s a long conversation between Elba and Swinton, as the latter is learning about the magic stories in her reality. Or is it the same reality?

I can’t recommend the movie for its story, but rather for how Miller presents this particular genre through his eyes. And also for how he guides the two leads with a certain kind of charm and patience. They respectively deal with love and loss, and how certain things can take a toll in life. It’s one of those movies you can just look at, especially if it’s painted by John Seale, who also worked with the director on “Mad Max: Fury Road.” I was kind of bored by the story, but was still interested to see how the magic would pay off.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Categories: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

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