Generic in its design, the solid work from Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton isn't enough to make "Three Thousand Years of Longing" worth the trouble.
Based on the 1994 short story, "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" by A.S. Byatt, a djinn (think "genie") is released from his bottle and grants three wishes to his newest "master." This time around, it's contemporary times and the scholarly Dr. Alithea Binnie (Swinton) is the beneficiary of the three wishes, but - to paraphrase the Genie from Aladdin - this djinn "ain't never had a friend" like Alithea.
In Instanbul to attend a conference where she is to speak, Dr. Binnie is at first skeptical of her new friend. The Djinn (played by Elba) first appears as a giant, but eventually tempers his size to his new companion. As if shape-shifting wasn't enough, she still doubts he is real. So he regales her three different stories from his past, and his near miraculous journey to where he is now. The veiled afterschool special begins.
The Djinn and his journeys are supposed to be holding up a magnifying glass to humanity, but the result is a somewhat bland, sometimes corny dialogue exercise. The Djinn has finally found a person so selfless and sure of herself that she doesn't desire any of his wishes, and what could have been a magical and meaningful experience boils down to a wordy, banal and underwhelming slog.
Director George Miller, who gained well-deserved praise for the realism and live-action of his previous film, "Mad Max: Fury Road," leans heavy into what feels like 1990s-quality CGI. Something about the djinn's rendering keeps us at arms length from ever feeling connected to Elba's character, despite the actor's best efforts at brooding. From the guy who brought us not only "Mad Max" but "Happy Feet" and "Happy Feet Two," his latest effort feels like it could have been released in a different era, one where audiences accepted sub-par effects to go along with their predictable, feel-good endings.
"Three Thousand Years of Longing" needed to do something more with a story and characters that we - in the year 2022 - have seen before, thousands of times. But maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes.
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba.
Directed by George Miller ("Mad Max: Fury Road," "Happy Feet," "Babe: Pig in the City," "The Witches of Eastwick," "The Road Warrior," "Mad Max").
"Three Thousand Years of Longing" is in theaters on Friday, August 25th, 2022.
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