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George Miller's 'Three Thousand Years of Longing' delivers on wonderstruck

Elise Lockwood/Elise Lockwood

I suppose one good thing about being immortal is that if you end up trapped in a bottle at the bottom of the ocean for a few millennia, your perception of time might be such that it wouldn’t seem quite as long as it would if that time were limited. Otherwise, being immortal sounds terrible.

Three Thousand Years of Longing is the new movie from director George Miller, the man who made the Mad Max series and Babe: Pig in the City. It’s a movie that seems almost designed just to let Miller indulge his imagination, which can only be a good thing with him. But considering his last film was Fury Road, it may also be a bit of a surprise how muted and measured the tone of this one is, although the title may have tipped us off.

Tilda Swinton plays Alithea, a famous “narratologist,” a studier of stories. She reminds us that humans are storytelling creatures, we create narrative to give meaning to our lives. Alithea comes upon a small bottle, and while cleaning it, she releases a Djinn, played by Idris Elba. Alithea, of course, is given three wishes, though she knows all the stories about what can go wrong with granted wishes, so she’s hesitant to make any wish at all. The Djinn has been cursed and cannot be set free until she makes those three wishes, and so he tells her about his last 3,000 years, from being cursed, through his very long time in a bottle, and how painfully close he’s already come to being freed. And, most importantly, he talks of love, love he’s gained and lost.

I’m heavily biased in favor of stories about stories, and simply sitting back and watching George Miller let his creativity rip is magical, especially when he can do pretty much anything he wants. I’m not totally sold on the last section of the film, though I could be persuaded, and Miller’s exoticism of African and Asian cultures could rub some people the wrong way, even in a movie as fantastical as this. But Miller also knows we go to the movies to be wonderstruck, and there’s nothing like watching his flights of fancy fly.

Three Thousand Years of Longing is in theaters.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.