How do you follow up on the most overrated film of the last 10 years? Mad Max: Fury Road. A visually sumptuous and technically splendid opus with no emotional engagement whatsoever. If you’re George Miller this question has two answers as posited by his follow-up feature. Make something that is just as visually splendid in places but will not have the commercial or awards appeal. Infuse it with an emotional core that eventually reveals itself to have the opposite problem or be far too earnest and sappy in comparison to Fury Road. Hence you have Three Thousand Years of Longing. A fairly straightforward adult-orientated fable/Aladdin riff with Tilda Swinton playing a jaded academic who analyses narratives and Idris Elba as the genie inside the bottle she finds in the grand bazaar of Istanbul. Much of the narrative takes place in a flashback with Elba genie telling Swinton various stories about his life well he waits for her to bestow three wishes upon him in their hotel room. The episodic flashback narratives have moments of wildly engaging with visual invention that screams “this thing will have a cult following in years to come.” The visuals do a great deal of the heavy lifting in making up for the fact that a lot of the screenplay itself comes across like a slightly ponderous Audible Original Drama. Both Elba and Swinton remain committed to the wild shifts delivering strong central turns. For two-thirds of its runtime, it’s the sort of blatantly flawed but engaging peace where the things that work are strong enough to give it a recommendation regardless of any holes that can be drilled into the full package beyond the surface. Then the final act hits and the narrative shift for the sentimental may still alienate viewers that were on board until this point.
Anything can be interpreted as having some level of subjectivity. Something like Three Thousand Years of Longing may not be the most obvious example of this but it is certainly one of the fairest. Hugely flawed but worth the experience.