At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Three Thousand Years of Longing “2022”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Three Thousand Years of Longing “2022”

All Posts

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Fantasy/Stars: Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, Alyla Browne Aamito Lagum, Burcu Gölgedar, Matteo Bocelli, Kaan Guldur, Jack Braddy, Hugo Vella, Pia Thunderbolt, Anna Adams, David Collins, Angie Tricker, Anthony Moisset/Runtime: 108 minutes

I think it can be safely said that it is immensely difficult for me both as a film reviewer and just a lover of cinema in general to not want to cheer on in some way a slice of cinema like the one I am reviewing for you today, the new release Three Thousand Years of Longing. This is because, at least in the eyes of this reviewer, film helmer George Miller is a filmmaker who has always tried to make each film he helms as distinct as possible (I mean this IS the guy who gave us the Mad Max movies, but also Happy Feet and The Witches of Eastwick so I guess he’s been fairly successful in that mission). Suffice it to say therefore that if this guy wanted to give us his version of a romantic fantasy that by itself is downright intriguing. Suffice it to say that when looking at this film through that prism it is one that most assuredly does not disappoint when looking at its riveting visuals as well as its distinct eccentricities. I mean this is one slice of cinema that is so unabashedly unique that I am halfway tempted to just tell you that degree of uniqueness is worth seeing this film all on its own. Unfortunately, this slice of cinema also takes itself at the knees a fair bit due to how it is showcased less as a cohesive film from an iconic helmer and more like a very loosely held together cinematic scrapbook of thematic concepts, ideas, and ideologies respectively. Suffice it to say that I have no doubt in my mind that this slice of cinema will most assuredly acquire fans over time since there are people out there who will be satisfied with just letting this film take them on the journey that it wants to even if it’s also a journey that is so bumpy you might need a chiropractor when it’s all over. At the same time though, I would be lying if I said that this viewing experience is a wee bit of a mess that is full to the brim with out of nowhere relationships to say nothing of a framework that places an emphasis on its core bond a heck of a lot less than should be expected especially when taking into consideration the really good performances by the two clearly talented leads who are operating at the peak of their acting abilities. Thus, you might not find yourself sad in any way that you saw this movie, but at the same time don’t be surprised if you find yourself making a wish to your own personal Genie that this movie actually had been a lot better given the talent behind it.

The plot is as follows: Three Thousand Years of Longing gets underway by introducing us to a woman by the name of Alithea Binnie. A woman who, among other attributes, is an academic whose field of study is in narratology or the study of narratives (stories) and who is someone who has perfected of living a life of being on her own and immersing herself in the world of academia as much as possible. Things begin to change for our heroine however when, whilst at a conference in the city of Istanbul, she finds a gorgeous bottle that she takes back to her hotel room only to inadvertently discover that this bottle is no mere bottle. Rather, it is a vessel for a mystical creature known as a Djinn (or Genie for those of you who prefer simpler terms). We soon see that, in time-honored fashion, the Djinn is unleased and politely yet firmly asks Alithea what three wishes of hers he can possibly grant only to soon hit an unexpected stumbling block when he learns that not only is our seemingly satisfied academic lacking any desires he can grant, but that she also has no desire to make any wishes period due to any potential fallout that could occur. This is because, due in large part to her choice in career and the knowledge she has accumulated throughout the years, she is very much aware of what the stories say about the creature before her to say nothing of how the wishes that he can grant can go horrifically awry. As a result, we see that instead of making wishes, she instead does something fairly different that takes the shape and form of engaging in a quasi-sorta interrogation of the Djinn. One that results in the Djinn deciding to, in a manner similar to the iconic Arabian Nights stories of ol’, regale this immense skeptic with anecdotes from all the adventures and misadventures that he has experienced in his lengthy lifespan and which are presented via flashbacks to show not only how the wishes that these people made changed the lives of these people in ways that were good and in ways that were not so good, but also how in the world their varying circumstances made an impact on the Djinn himself. Yet as Alithea sits in her hotel suite listening to these stories, it isn’t long before she is not only transfixed, but something else begins to occur. Namely that she also starts to ask herself if the choices she has made really were the best choices that she could have made, and if she has really lived life to the fullest possible extent. Of course, there is one other thing that starts to occur that I don’t feel like I have to spell out because it should be fairly obvious given that it the Djinn in question is Idris Elba wearing a bathrobe. However, how that aspect manages to play into the overarching story to say nothing of just what exactly it results in for both of these characters I will leave for you to discover for yourself dear reader…..

Now, I’m not going to lie to you dear reader: If you are one of those movie goers who became interested in this film due to the kinetic and lively energy present in the trailer, then I hate to break it to you, but this movie is a heck of a lot more solemn to say nothing of gloomy than you may have anticipated. Oh, make no mistake: Miller’s quirky style of comedy is just as prevalent as ever alongside his distinct gift for visual flair best showcased here by zany images rooted in lore and history from the Middle East, but for the most part this slice of cinema is completely ok with being a fairly emotional group of stories. Indeed, operating as a weird middle ground between an anthology film and a somewhat riveting class on philosophy, the experiences that the Djinn talks about are fairly introspective, every so often heartbreaking, and always accented with a continuous mood of grief. To an extent, this is a positive for the overall movie since it aids this slice of cinema in effectively occupying a slot in the realm between an A-Z kinda story and a fairly meta investigation that proves to be capable of saying things about itself even as it sticks fairly close to the framework of a piece of folklore rather than the “present day style” of how a modern film is set up. At the same time however, it is also to this slice of cinema’s detriment that it manages to be as translucently looking inward, and so devoted to all the intertwined thematic concepts that the movie ultimately is not quite able to come together and operate as a slice of cinema that is deserving of the mini narratives contained within it. Sure, each narrative is fairly riveting, but they also by the same token don’t do a good job at times of impart on Alithea, or you the viewer, the heartbreaking range of the time that the Djinn has spent amongst people nor for that matter do they really seem to correlate to each other. Indeed, the ideas of love, why we regale each other with narratives, the demolition of common folklore about making wishes, compassion, and the need for people to connect with others. These concepts, and others, are all discussed by our two main characters and yet, for as thought-provoking as they are, they ultimately don’t give us any gratifying resolutions through their various discussions to say nothing of no clear motivation for having them simply beyond the reason that “the movie requires them to”.

Fortunately, there is at the very least one big strength that is helping immensely to keep this slice of cinema from completely falling apart and that is the work done here by both Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. Indeed here are a dynamic duo of performers that, choices they have made in terms of what films they choose to flex their respective acting muscles aside, were destined to sooner or later be in a film together and make the most of it. Suffice it to say that partnering up George Miller and his incredible skill as a helmer with the engaging energy of both Elba and Swinton may have seem on paper to be a fantasy that could be quite successful if it was ever given life, but then seeing it unfold before your eyes proves to be a genuine wish come true and one that avid movie lovers should delight in viewing. This starts with Elba who is absolutely fantastic in the role of the Djinn and it is through this character that the subtle magic that is present in this slice of cinema functions incredibly well. Indeed, in the hands of Elba, this Djinn is not a comedic powerhouse although still capable of immense power like Robin Williams’ Genie from Aladdin was. Nor for that matter is he a diabolical and twistedly malicious creature that uses your wishes to brutally kill you in a variety of different ways like Andrew Divoff’s Djinn in 1997’s Wishmaster. Instead, this wonderfully benevolent (by and large) take on the iconic entity is one that operates with not only an enchanting charisma that feels genuine, but also is one who gives off the vibe of a world-weary businesslike showman who feels like he has seen it all when it comes to the kind of things that people are capable of wishing for only to find himself pleasantly surprised when this woman who has summoned him not only doesn’t believe he exists, but that she has nothing she would like to wish for and instead would like to know more about him. Indeed, the majority of the film may be faulty to an extent, but I definitely feel that the work done here by Elba exceeds those limits and I would love to see him play a role like this in a much better film because he is genuinely enchanting. On the other side of the coin, is the ever-delightful Tilda Swinton and, in her role of Alithea Binnie, manages to get as much as she can out of a part that can best be described as the “prim and proper academic”. Indeed operating as a mix of sneaky, vulnerable, and even self-conscious, this is one live-action role of Swinton’s that is (ironically) definitely a lot more rooted in reality than some of her more recent cinematic endeavors have been (Ancient One in Doctor Strange anyone?). Yet, much in the same vein as her talented co-star and his respective part, we see that Swinton too is also able to have the audience focus on her as she manages to explore the various dimensions that make up her character in a way that is not only riveting and gorgeously done, but also that gives off the vibe of being surprisingly realistic as well. Suffice it to say that this slice of cinema may have its issues, but the work done by its two main leads is definitely not one of them.

All in all despite the list of flaws that it may have attached to its distinct hip, but I still am very much of the belief that the new slice of cinema that is Three Thousand Years of Longing is most assuredly one film that is worthy to be viewed in theaters should you feel the desire to go out to your local multiplex and do so. Indeed, I can’t lie to you dear reader: the stories that form the core of this narrative might not coalesce on the level that they should have, but it can’t be denied that the work done by Miller in the director chair, the visual department, and (especially) the two phenomenally talented main actors and their just as gifted support cast do help to pick up the slack a fair bit. On top of that, no iconic film helmer George Miller might not go as quirky as I was secretly wishing that he would, but even so this is most assuredly still a slice of cinema that is definitely larger than life in its own distinct manner. More than anything however, this saga dealing with love, grief, and the assorted complications that can come with wish making operates as a crucial hybrid of both stylish flair to say nothing of functioning as a slice of cinema that is meant to be seen by older children (or as society calls them: adults). It is the potential of this cinematic mixture that results in how tame this slice of cinema turns out to be, especially when looking at some of the other “adult-only” movies this iconic film helmer has given audiences through the years even more of a head-scratcher. Ah well. If nothing else dear reader at least this slice of cinema does manage to give us a terrific trio of director George Miller and dynamic leads Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba (a pair of actors incidentally who I have yet to see give a bad performance even if some of the latter’s film choices have been…. weird to put it lightly) to act as vital support. Indeed, if there was anything that I would hope that could be taken from this slice of cinema it would be the fact that this trio actually works phenomenally well together and I have no doubt in my mind that if the powers that be in Hollywood really were paying attention, they’d give this trio the chance to work together again on something that has the same style and flair that this one did, but a heck of a lot more in the way of substance that actually gels together really well. As it is, Three Thousand Years of Longing is not a bad first cinematic wish to make, but trust me when I say that you will be thankful that you get at least two more after it. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Three Thousand Years of Longing a solid 3 out of 5.