Three Thousand Years of Longing Blu-ray Review: George Miller’s Genie

Writer/director George Miller enables his whimsical side in between Mad Max movies in this modern riff on the Aladdin myth. He enlists acting heavyweights Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in what is largely a two-hander, as Elba’s djinn recounts to Swinton’s bookish loner the story of how he was imprisoned in his bottle. It unfolds much like a play, and could probably function nearly as well on a stage, but Miller incorporates fancy effects to embellish the adaptation to screen.

When Swinton’s researcher character lucks into possession of the djinn’s prison bottle, she isn’t dazzled by his promise of three wishes. Instead, she seeks to understand how he came to be captured in the first place, and is understandably wary of his wish fulfillment due to the trickster nature of djinn and the pitfalls of wishes in general. As the djinn recounts his history, she gradually warms to him, leading to a final act where we learn if she’s been played or blessed by her fortuitous encounter.

Miller spins his tale at a leisurely pace, perhaps a bit overlong at nearly two hours but punctuated by winning effects work as he shows the djinn’s story through multiple centuries. It’s an ambitious and highly original swing akin to Cloud Atlas, and while it doesn’t quite connect as completely as it could, it makes a lot more sense than the Wachowski project. He proves his range once again, the only writer/director who can manage the post apocalyptic mayhem of Mad Max, the family fun of the Babe and Happy Feet franchises, and this low-key gem that falls somewhere in between those two ends of his spectrum.

Swinton is disarmingly charming as the intellectual misanthrope, marking this as perhaps her most conventional role in years. It’s a pleasure to see her in a rare “normal” performance, as much as her typical oddball oeuvre is also always welcome. Elba proves to be an ideal thespian match for her, bringing world-weary gravitas and intelligence to the djinn character. He seems to have the bulk of the lines in the script as the film explores his past, and he nails the soulfulness of the character while always leaving just a hint of danger that he’s potentially bamboozling Swinton’s character. Sure, his prosthetic pointy ears are nearly as distracting as Channing Tatum’s in Jupiter Ascending, but he makes a much more believable genie than Will Smith in Disney’s live action Aladdin.

Oddly, the Blu-ray has absolutely no bonus features, not even a trailer, making this a thoroughly bare-bones affair. Blu-ray image quality is predictably flawless in 1080p hi def, while the immersive soundscape is presented in Dolby Atmos TrueHD. Although a digital copy is included, there is no DVD, in spite of the misleading banner adorning the top of the slipcase. Perhaps a more robust release will see the light of day in years to come, but for now the film by itself is enough to grant the wishes of the fans.

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Steve Geise

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