Director George Miller’s Genie-in-a-Bottle film, Three Thousand Years of Longing, is a huge failure at Cannes

The greatest compliment I can give Three thousand years of longingthe latest movie from Mad Max: Fury Road and Babe: Pig in town Director George Miller, is that each and every one of those three thousand years is deeply felt by the viewer during the film’s less than two hour run. How time seems to stand still during this arched and whimsical fable! How much is the experience of watching this syrupy, magically realistic babble akin to being trapped in a tiny bottle on the seabed for hundreds of years, just like the genie played by Idris Elba in the film.

Three thousand years of longing is essentially a portmanteau film of sorts, enacting a series of stories loosely derived from the tradition of Thousand and one Night, told in a modern narrative setting, in which a long-established British professor, played by Tilda Swinton, awakens a Djinn from an ancient bottle. The Djinn (Idris Elba, with a CGI sub-half not dissimilar to the one he was in cats, which is not a reference point that any reviewer would be willing to dig up) then tells this uptight lady the story of his three thousand year imprisonment in the vial, with a series of elaborately staged flashbacks to ancient Arabia that make up the bulk of the plot. As this story progresses, Alithea Binnie (because that’s the name of the professor played by Swinton, please don’t question it) starts to fall for the Djinn.

The contemporary portion of the film is shot in frighteningly garish primary colors, with an equally disturbing hyper-real cinematography whose brutally ugly sharpness of image at least has the effect of making the historical portions look snazzy. Swinton, who plays the role of “Alithea Binnie” with a vague regional accent, never quite connects with her character or her co-star — notably, she plays the character as too distinct, so Alitheas later meld with her in their romance with the Djinn seem to come out of nowhere. Meanwhile, Elba is tasked with an even more demanding role: his elf-eared spirit must tell the whole story in flashback, use his magical powers to conjure up a sense of otherworldly wonder, and form a relationship with the main character despite her lack of alchemy. Truth be told, George Miller works overtime to assist his protagonists in this, forcing them into scintillating acts of subterfuge filmed in stunning CGI, and delves into the tale of the jinn with richly composed scenes set in Arabian courts of times gone by and make Edward Said, rolling over in his grave. But despite these efforts, despite the profusion of magically liquefying solids, garishly colored veils and opulently designed vignettes featuring a phalanx of beautiful, golden-skinned princesses and courtiers, nothing about the film ever stands out.

In part, that’s because of the sheer ridiculousness of the project. Three thousand years of longing carries its eccentricity with extreme confidence, leaning on its own sincerity and positively challenging viewers to have the audacity to laugh at it. Readers, I have accepted this challenge. The film isn’t entirely devoid of humor, but it’s odd pointless, with a stuffy quality that makes all his attempts at some sort of sacred, mystical storytelling absurd. Throughout his memories, the Djinn falls in love with a multitude of gorgeous princesses and has the unfortunate misfortune of being locked in his bottle time and time again, raising the question of whether Alithea will release him with her wishes: all of which would be perfectly acceptable were it not for it the jangling self-esteem of Miller’s own storytelling and the lack of rhythm, excitement or indeed Wonder to replace the made-up wonder of the film’s befuddled special effects and orientalism.

“The film isn’t entirely devoid of humor, but it’s oddly witless, with a stuffy quality that makes any of its attempts at some sort of sacred, mystical storytelling seem preposterous.”

It’s not all catastrophic here: every four or five fist-in-mouth moments is followed by a nicely composed scene—after all, Miller’s no slouch in the visual department—but those moments end up being too few to save the whole object. And the film’s qualities are almost entirely eroded by so many nightmarish inventions – like a scene where Pr. Binnie, madly in love with her colored genie, confronts her racist older Brexit-minded neighbors; or an ending in which Binnie and the Djinn (Djinn?) run away into a nightmarish velvety sunset; or a bizarre scenario in which a harem of obese courtesans is apparently meant to toy with the audience’s disgust at women of different sizes.

Three thousand years of longing‘s fabricated whimsy, his bleakly innocent vision of a world where stories matter because they tell us about mankind’s deepest secrets, or some mealy nonsense, have the ability to get your teeth galling. It may be that other viewers will have the ability to indulge in the woo-woo wonders of this film more fully, but by the half-hour mark this reviewer was determined to bottle the Djinn for another sweet three thousand. Director George Miller’s Genie-in-a-Bottle film, Three Thousand Years of Longing, is a huge failure at Cannes


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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