Certain movies are difficult to describe. Hollywood likes easily classifiable genre pictures they can drop into a box. However, certain filmmakers refuse to stay in those boxes. We here at Geek Girl Authority encourage this refusal. This push and pull in the movie industry sometimes makes it a struggle when marketing films to a mass audience. You go in expecting one thing from a trailer and emerge having seen a completely different movie. This is the case with director George Miller’s new release Three Thousand Years of Longing. Is it worth venturing to a theater for this one? Read on!
Three Thousand Years of Longing follows an academic (Tilda Swinton). She’s enjoying her life, which she has very much together, thank you very much. Her professional life is aces. Her personal life is quiet, but she likes it that way. While on a business trip to Istanbul, she picks up a beautiful souvenir bottle.
When she gets the bottle back to the hotel, she discovers it is occupied by a handsome Djinn (Idris Elba). He’s desperate to give her everything her heart desires. Though, nothing is ever quite that easy. She already possesses everything her heart desires. So, the two sit down and talk about wishes, life and his 1,000-year lifespan. George Miller directs the film from a script he wrote with Augusta Gore.
Three Thousand Years of Longing marks Miller’s first big-screen directorial effort since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. One of the industry’s contemporary filmmaking legends, while Miller is undoubtedly most associated with the Mad Max series, he’s a staggeringly versatile director. He touts credits like Happy Feet, The Witches of Eastwick and Babe: Pig in the City. George Miller, it seems, can do it all.
Diving in, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a hard movie to classify. Those who dabble in the independent film scene should already be clued into this thanks to the presence of Tilda Swinton. She doesn’t take just any role. If she’s in a movie, one can be assured it’s at least interesting.
With that said, the film’s marketing desperately wants to pigeonhole Three Thousand Years of Longing as some kind of quirky rom-com. Kids, there’s a lot more to this movie than that. In fact, I saw the trailer after watching the film and laughed out loud. The movie reflected in that trailer was not the one I saw on the big screen.
Is this a bad thing? Honestly, I’m not sure. Walking out of Three Thousand Years of Longing, I can’t say how I felt. Even a few days later, I’m still not sure. This was a hard one.
As Miller’s credit list reminds us, he brings a dynamic flair for the fantastic in his visuals, and this is true this time around.
There are deep mythological and fantastical roots in Three Thousand Years of Longing. These influences show themselves vibrantly in the film’s visuals. The movie revels in the beautiful historical locations and there are frames that truly are works of art. In a cinematic climate with hastily rendered special effects shots and often bland, unchallenging cinematography, Miller and his crew seem to be taking their cues from painting and “The Old Masters.”
What proves the biggest struggle in Three Thousand Years of Longing is the storytelling structure. The film features the main storyline involving the Djinn and Alithea (Swinton.) However, their light romantic arc serves as an entry point to tell a number of micro-stories about the Djinn’s previous adventures.
These stories, while interesting, are purely told from the Djinn’s perspective. As such, it is a challenge to get invested in any of these extra characters and gain an appreciation for their humanity. By the mere fact the Djinn is telling these stories in the present, it’s easily assumed they don’t end happily for him in the past. In the grand scheme of things, this element of the story feels like forced storytime.
The presence of this meandering storytelling structure lets you revel in the beauty of the imagery. However, the main storyline (between Althea and the Djinn) doesn’t get going until what feels like the end of act two.
At that point, the story enters a new arc as Althea and the Djinn relocate to London. Once the action moves to the city, the film finds its narrative focus. However, this is already after a lot of drifting through the meandering tales making up the first three-quarters of that movie.
While the third act certainly wants to tell a compelling and complex story, the narrative power is lost in the weight of the storytelling and stylistic elements.
Althea and Djinn’s story is told through a somewhat fragmented lens. In this third act, the action continues to drift lyrically as it has throughout much of the story. However, the addition of very dramatic fade-outs changes the tone. Rather than this feeling like the third act of a complete story, it feels like an awkward appendix of tacked-on endings which only serve to chop up the progression.
Storytelling gripes aside, Miller’s visual direction keeps Three Thousand Years of Longing moving on an even keel. In something few contemporary directors manage to do, he crafts a cinematic experience at every level. This begins with the earliest scenes and lasts through the music choice in the final credits. Every visual and auditory decision is there for a reason and feels like it builds on the cinematic experience as a whole. The crafted world is fully and completely realized and it is fully and completely George Miller.
Three Thousand Years of Longing, when all is said and done, was a hard film to cover. Even a few days after the screening, I’m still processing my thoughts. Ultimately, know what you’re walking into. This is not the movie you see in the trailer. Three Thousand Years of Longing is a drifting and meandering visual feast. It’s gorgeous to look at, but this is by no means a standard Hollywood picture.
Three Thousand Years of Longing premieres in theaters around the country on August 26, 2022.
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This review was originally posted on 8/26/22.