THE MOVIE GUY — “Longing” for a better movie

Published 12:03 am Friday, August 26, 2022

“Three Thousand Years of Longing”

United Artists

Directed by George Miller

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Starring Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, Aamito Lagum, Matteo Bocelli, Lachy Hulme and Burcu Golgedar

Rated R

 

2 Stars

 

Following the success of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” writer/director George Miller could have produced any film that caught his attention.

The film he chose to focus on was “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” an eccentric genie wishes story that has its moments of brilliance, but also feels rather hemmed in by its own constraints.

Based on a short story by A.S. Byatt, this is a movie about storytelling. Tilda Swinton plays a “narratologist,” which is an academic who studies the art and structure of storytelling. She travels to Istanbul for a lecture where she stumbles across a pretty bottle at the market.

While cleaning it back at her hotel room, our bookish heroine suddenly finds herself face to face with a larger-than-life djinn (Idris Elba).

As is expected, the djinn offers to grant her wishes — anything that her heart desires.

Unexpectedly, the narratologist knows the magical wishes always come with unforeseen consequences, so she says she would rather just hear his story, something the djinn is all too happy to tell.

With that set up, we are whisked away in a series of tales that quickly become a visual feast for the eyes. We travel to ancient kingdoms that are filled with ornate architecture, dazzling pops of color, and of course, moments of magic.

The problem is while Elba is a fine narrator, Swinton is relegated to the sidelines, given little to do other than listen.

That structure makes the movie feel strangely inert, keeping the audience’s emotional involvement at bay until the later scenes of the movie when the characters are finally given the chance to truly interact. My mind had already wandered off by the time these scenes finally rolled around.

All of which leaves me feeling conflicted over “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” Swinton and Elba turn in fine performances here, but the story never really drew me in.

That’s a huge problem in a film that has a magical creature at its core. The film deserves credit for its visual style, but once again, what good is a gilded stage if the story doesn’t live up the brilliance of its surroundings?

All of which means that while I never actively disliked “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” I left the theaters longing for a movie that would have tickled my senses as well as touched my heart.

Perhaps if I ever stumble upon my own genie in a bottle, I will wish for better movies, rather than an okay, but disappointing effort from one of my favorite filmmakers.

 

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.