Review by Sean Boelman
Seven years after the release of one of his most critically and financially lauded films yet, Australian filmmaker George Miller returns to theaters with a movie that is drastically different in tone yet still features his stylistic trademarks. Unfortunately, despite being an absolute feast for the eyes, Three Thousand Years of Longing is dreadfully boring, almost to the point of being unwatchable.
The film follows a lonely scholar who comes across a Djinn who offers her three wishes that he must grant in exchange for his own freedom. Based on a short story by A.S. Byatt, the movie suffers from the same issues that so many films adapted from short stories have: it has an interesting concept, but it doesn’t know how to build it out to feature length.
Short story adaptations also tend to suffer from poor character development, which is one of the biggest issues with this movie. It’s odd, because it’s a two-hander with one character that is essentially all backstory and the other having very few defining qualities. Ultimately, no one is going to care much about either of the characters or their stories.
As the title implies, a majority of the film is flashbacks in which the Djinn discusses with his new master his previous experiences as the protagonist decides what wish she wants to make. And while these fantasy tales allow the movie plenty of room for grand visuals, the film is severely lacking in any form of narrative momentum or energy.
In one scene, the protagonist of the movie says that “every story about wishing is a cautionary tale,” and this is no exception. Miller and co-writer Augusta Gore don’t explore much more than the usual “be careful what you wish for” themes. There is an attempt to say something profound about love, but this aspect of the story feels entirely underdeveloped.
Tilda Swinton is usually fantastic, and while she is far from bad in this film, the role doesn’t give her much substantial material to work with. This is more of Idris Elba’s show, as he is the focus of the flashbacks, and he carries the movie very well. Still, the major factor that is missing is chemistry between the two actors.
It’s honestly shocking how much of this film is just the two main actors talking in a hotel room. During the flashbacks, the cinematography and production design are extravagant and stylish. However, the sequences tend to end just as soon as you begin to get immersed in the world that Miller is building.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is a massive disappointment from one of the finest filmmakers working today. Although the visual style certainly lives up to expectations, the script leaves too much to be desired for this to be worth watching.
Three Thousand Years of Longing hits theaters on August 26.