Three Thousand Years of Longing (\N)

Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba,
A lonely scholar, on a trip to Istanbul, discovers a Djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.
  • 6.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-11-01 Added:
  • Writer:
  • George Miller, Director:
  • Doug Mitchell, Producer:

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Trailer:

8 / 10

Not the movie the trailer would lead you to believe it is

Tilda Swinton is an academic who studies stories. She lives a fairly isolated existence ... by choice ... valuing her independence over close relationships. While at a conference in Istanbul, she buys a glass bottle as a souvenir and when she accidentally opens it in her hotel room, djinn Idris Elba emerges. Naturally, he tells her she has three wishes, but as she's an expert on stories, she's wary since all the stories she knows about wishing are cautionary tales. Since he needs her to make wishes to be free, Elba tells her stories about his past to explain how he ended up in the bottle and to build trust.

The advertising for this film is deceptive. The trailer and this poster try to convince you that you're getting some kind of magical George Miller action extravaganza along the lines of Mad max meets "Everything Everywhere All at Once". This is nothing like that film. It's a pretty stately paced film that mostly involves Swinton and Elba talking in a hotel room, with Elba's stories providing the magnificent visuals. But even these stories are pretty deliberately paced. It's a film about ideas, not action.

I really liked the ideas. It's about the role of stories in life and also about love and companionship. It's also about the idea of wishing for things and what we ultimately have the right to demand from other people. The pace lagged occasionally for me, but I'm very forgiving of a film this packed with ideas and ultimately so intriguingly open ended.

7 / 10

Not Quite What I Wished For.

If you, like I was, are expecting a fast-paced, light-spirited, fun romp of visual extravaganza and witty dialogue along the journey that is Three Thousand Years of Longing ... you WILL be disappointed. Now, that is not meant to dissuade you from watching or enjoying it. On the contrary. It is simply meant to temper your expectations.

There is certainly much beauty in many of this film's scenes; from curious beauty in the mundane, to fabulous beauty in the fantastical. (There is also a musical scene that will spirit you away to decadent places). Sadly however, for some unknown reason, this film chooses to stay more in the realm of the mundane than the wondrous. The wasted shame in this is almost palpable.

The film also feels somewhat choppy or disconnected at times. This is especially true quite early, when it begins to touch upon and wander into the mythical almost immediately, but with no real explanation as to why or how those particular scenes tie in with the rest of the film.

Lastly, and most grievously, while all the right words existed for this story to be told ... it seemed to lack a bit of passion or fervor from the storytellers.

All this is NOT to imply that Three Thousand Years of Longing is without its merits.

For one, Swinton and Elba together (although IMO neither delivering their best performances), is still a treat. They are beautiful separately, and together, they are art. Neither however, could elevate the tone of the film because, intentionally or not, the MAIN TONE of several parts of the film, is more cacophony than cadence. It is, my friends, far darker and sadder in parts, than what may be expected.

Think of it as a bedtime story for adults where the story is entertaining enough, and the pictures are beautiful, but the Happily Ever After may be a tad bittersweet and hard to swallow.

8 / 10

Could be much more, but fell in love with its own premise

It's a good movie, that should have been excellent but ended up just "good". It's visually magnificent, it has very good acting and it's basic idea is original and even poignant but. There are a few very big buts in stopping it from reaching the potential heights it should've reached.

It's getting lost in its own meandering tale, though we've all figured out the point it wanted to make long before it spells it out on the screen. It want's too much to demonstrate it's about storytelling so all the stories we see on screen are so heavily narrated that many of their charming characters end up as puppets with only glimpse of the character they should have, preventing us from really caring for them or in other words leaving us uninvolved with big chunks of the story. The combination of a long meandering plot line that keeps the audience uninvolved is an obstacle almost no movie can survive.

If I did enjoy it it's mainly because of the leading couple - Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton - no they're not giving a gut wrenching performance - they're simply very very professional keeping the convoluted plotline from losing us altogether anchoring the viewers to the story without turning it into a soap opera, and it could very easily turn into one so I'm definitely grateful for that professionalism. I simply can't help wondering what could have happened had it fulfilled the potential it most certainly has.

6 / 10

"There is No Story About Wishing That is Not a Cautionary Tale."

George Miller has had a hell of a career. Much of his film work has revolved around the Mad Max franchise, but he's done a variety of work such as Happy Feet and The Witches of Eastwick. It's an eclectic mix which has led to his most eclectic film yet, Three Thousand Years of Longing. Although it's not his best work, Three Thousand Years seems to be a deeply personal film.

There are many idiosyncratic choices throughout Three Thousand Years which mark it as a passion project; it wouldn't be surprising to learn that the film languished in development hell or lacked the proper budgeting for its globe trekking story. Whatever the case, the joy for the material is evident, alongside some extremely obtuse and unrelatable elements. It's a strange film full of strange choices, zippy enough to be enjoyed in the moment but too jumbled for satisfactory mental congealment after the fact.

The film follows Alithea, a narrative scholar who uncorks The Djinn, a mystical being who has been imprisoned multiple times over thousands of years. The Djinn recants his history to Alithea, detailing the many loves and tragedies he has catalyzed in three ancient societies. Alithea must choose her own three wishes to fulfill her soul's most inner desire and help free The Djinn for all time.

There's much to unpack and many varyingly effective elements, but Miller dooms himself from the start with an awkward and forced framing device. Although the bulk of the story is The Djinn's, the film forces Alithea's point of view early, kicking off with one of her scholarly lectures and mind-numbing narration. The perspective is ostensibly chosen to build her character, but it's so far removed from the meat of the film that the viewer is immediately jarred when the gears shift.

The crux of the Three Thousand Years takes place in flashback, until it shifts again from The Djinn's vantage to Alithea's contemporary life, which is just as unsatisfying as the opening act; firstly because The Djinn is a more interesting character in every regard, and secondly because there's no thematic or narrative foothold anchoring the audience. We're thrust in, taken out, and thrust in again without explanation or purpose. Additionally, I pray we're not slipping back into years just prior when nearly every film opened with narration. Narration can kick rocks.

Three Thousand Years opens and closes wobbly, but the majority of the film works because the narrative is taken out of Alithea's hands and placed into The Djinn's. Idris Elba's Djinn is a sympathetic and vulnerable figure. He's a perfect physical choice for the role, strong enough to give off an aura of invincibility and inherent strength, but compassionate and fragile enough to create a sense of danger and powerlessness. His deep, silky voice is also perfect, because the film is essentially a spoken word album with accompanying visuals.

Although narration should kick rocks, his perpetual monologue is necessary to keep Miller's intended pace, his dialogue isn't gratingly mystical or overwrought, and he tells his story in a controlled and relaxed manner. As far as narration goes, it's a reasonable middle ground.

There may be a cut of Three Thousand Years wherein the fat is eliminated, narration is removed, and we simply watch The Djinn's story unfold in a more natural and visual style...but there may also be a cut wherein the story is unchanged, the narration is removed, and the viewer never has a prayer of figuring out what the hell is going on. Again, this version is a reasonable middle ground.

Among the chief pleasures of Three Thousand Years' high points are the unpredictability of the tales and the ever-shifting dynamics of power through the ages. Period piece politics are always fun because viewers are treated to the many elaborate and savage methods ancient monarchs used to keep power before the iron rule of law. Watching the uncertainty, paranoia, betrayal, and succession of each era unfurl is a blast, and the vignettes possess a streamlined, concise quality which the film as a whole lacks. Throwing a Djinn into the cutthroat mix doesn't hurt the intrigue either.

Miller's direction is also assured and dynamic. There are a host of camera movements, some subtle, some not, which keep the viewer engaged and alert. There are dozens of stylized scene and shot transitions which broaden the scope of the film and aid in its impressive continuity.

For all the magic, mischief, and mayhem of the tales, the affair could've become deliriously ungrounded or unconvincing, like recent MCU films, but Miller knows (perhaps better than anyone) how to establish and accentuate atmosphere among utter madness. Editor Margaret Sixel also deserves praise for allowing the film to breathe.

The atmosphere of the film is laudable, and the costume and set designs are creatively amusing, but there is a visual nag throughout. The CGI here is plentiful and terrible. It's used for cobwebs, bottles, battles, and feet, among other things, and it's distractingly amateur every time. All of Miller's practical effects bravado from Mad Max: Fury Road is totally, glaringly absent here. In a film impressively managing to keep its artifice at bay through convincing mise-en-scene, the computer effects frequently threaten to crash the illusion. Do we really need CGI cobwebs?

Three Thousand Years is enjoyable in the theater, but its charm quickly dissipates after the projector flickers off. The story is glaringly disjointed on a micro and macro scale. Because the film never establishes a tone or context, the viewer is forced to create one, orienting themselves as the plot flies by - focus is nonexistent.

Motivations are also extremely hazy; Alithea's perspective and inclinations turn on a dime, jolting the film into its third act without rhyme or reason. Even much of The Djinn's story is cobbled together and somewhat rushed. The audience is given a plethora of details, but the eye and mind aren't drawn to anything in particular. Characters are hastily introduced and abandoned within The Djinn's tales and subplots are meticulously constructed for meager payoffs.

Overall, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a unique and simple idea stretched to and beyond its limitations. The film feels both overly developed and like a first draft, connecting several threads without creating intention or meaning. It's a bizarre, frustrating tradeoff. Miller's visual finesse is refreshing, and the relatively low stakes are a relief, but the story is monstrously cluttered.

The film is uncanny, even among Miller's uncanny filmography, and its strangeness may unfortunately turn off many in the general public. That's a shame, as this type of bold vision and passion for the craft should be celebrated and supported. If you have any interest in seeing something outside the box, give it a shot, because there's honestly no telling how you'll respond - a dwindling sentiment.

5 / 10

Where is the escalation?

I was enjoying myself for most of this movie. It's visually and musically beautiful. I was mostly invested in the story, until a point in the second half when I realized there wasn't any kind of escalation.

I don't mean I wanted to see action scenes. I didn't watch any trailers and was not misled as to what this movie "should" be. But there didn't seem to be any build up to any kind of climax. The entire movie is a steady walk. A car in cruise control at a 35 mph. I started to get impatient near the end. And at one point I was just waiting to leave.

The individual stories are interesting, but the overarching story leaves a lot to be desired. It also seems like they didn't know how to conclude this movie. It doesn't really work.

It's a shame because there is a lot of good here, creative and unique filmmaking, and hugely ambitious. I want more attempts like this, just hopefully better.

It's okay, I'll forever thank George Miller for giving me my second all-time favorite movie, Fury Road, which is the exact opposite example of skyrocket escalation to an epic climax. (1 viewing, opening Friday Dolby Cinema 8/26/2022)