George Miller, the mad genius behind the Mad Max films, filled his time between Mad Max: Fury Road and its prequel, Furiosa, with a similarly fantastic, albeit less apocalyptic fantasy film Three Thousand Years of Longing. Starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, the film premiered at Cannes to mostly positive reviews, and a trailer has now made its way to the rest of the world, by which to judge the film’s hype. I judge it VERY HYPE, VERY HYPE, INDEED. Not only is George Miller a maximalist filmmaker who packs every inch of the frame with something interesting to look at, but here he is working from a story by A.S. Byatt called “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” (the film is adapted by Augusta Gore). The story is about a solitary academic, settled in her ways and content with her lot, who discovers a djinn only to make a surprising wish. Being a folklorist, she is aware of the pitfalls of magical wishes, and she and the djinn form a unique bond as she debates her wishes.
Being a George Miller film, Longing looks amazing, naturally. There’s explosive color, elaborate sets, magic, mystery, fantasy, and Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton being unlikely friends. This looks like exactly the antidote needed to forget Elba was ever in Cats. This is like the anti-Cats, or maybe, in a way, it’s everything Cats wanted to be—magical, fantastical, transporting. Except Longing actually looks GOOD, maybe it can finally wash the stink of Cats from Elba’s repertoire. It also looks like it’s going to f-ck me up like The Green Knight and The Northman and Everything Everywhere All At Once and Titane f-cked me up. It seems like there will always be a home in theaters for non-superhero/blockbuster movies if they’re wildly inventive genre pieces that toy with the boundaries of genre and good taste. Honestly, if the air finally lets out of the superhero balloon and we’re left with movies like this and Tom Cruise’s next death-defying stunt, would you even mind?