To even wish that director George Miller’s next film following Mad Max: Fury Road is half the spectacle that film was seems impossible to ask. That film’s high octane, no holds barred mania has instead been traded for something softer and quieter this time around. Based on a collection of 1990s mythical short stories, 3000 Years of Longing finds a lonely British scholar named Alithea stumbling across a small glass jar containing a real life genie. The genie explains his usual schtick, 3 wishes and all that jazz, but Alithea is actually more interested in hearing about the Djinn’s past life. So the two sit down and share an intimate conversation on love, longing and desires. Told primarily in flashbacks, the first half of this film really encapsulates the pivotal theme of the film, which is the importance of stories. The Djinn’s three stories feel familiar in their fantastical nature, giving this film the feeling of a long-forgotten wonder. They almost feel like old Hollywood, highlighting some beautiful fantasy imagery with vibrant colors and incredibly detailed costume design. The tales themselves are filled with some real old school story elements, like the cautionary warning of getting what you wish for and cruel, darkly poetic irony. It also helps that we are guided through these stories by an incredibly baritone and seductive Idris Elba as the genie. Him and Alithea, played by Tilda Swinton, have a pretty solid back and forth as the genie continuously pressures her to make her wishes so he can be free, but Alithea stands firm in her self-denying stance that she has nothing to wish for. The film is incredibly patient in its story-telling, allowing you to really meditate on the film’s themes, as well as the impact that technology and advancements will play in holding our attachment to stories. It also manages to be intimate and contained while also managing to be bombastic and grand as well. This is some of the finest visual storytelling I’ve seen this year, and no doubt we were potentially robbed of an even grander adventure thanks to a certain virus that shant be named, but what we do get from these stories is unchained wonderment that lends itself to fantastical and sometimes frightening moments of pure mythological madness.
However, these stories of myths and loves lost eventually end as all stories do, which leaves us with what I think can be considered the film’s “main story”; the happenstance romance that sparks between Alithea and the Djinn. For me, this is where the film began to lose me. The story now relies on the romance between our two characters, but I never really found it all that compelling and honestly it seems a bit forced. The lessons and themes of the Djinn’s life stories don’t really seem to come full circle in the end, opting to introduce new ideas that are hastily rushed through to reach an ending that truthfully fell flat for me. I loved the concept of this being all about the smaller stories that fuel their hotel room conversation, and once it departs from that concept it struggles to both enthrall and tantalize. I don’t really feel this needed to be a romance film truthfully, as I think the core idea that stories are not just windows into the past, but windows into ourselves that we can lend to what we don’t fully understand, is perfectly strong enough. The third act really slows the film down, faking you out just when you think it’s over only to realize there’s more the film just has to show you.
Regardless, it’s still a shame how this film was mishandled in the advertising, or should I say, it’s lack thereof. I saw absolutely no press for this film since the trailer dropped, and honestly I think it’s a huge disservice to one of the most unique visual storytellers working today in George Miller. If you have the patience to sit down and take in some old fashion mythos, I think the first two thirds of this film is spectacular, with striking fantasy imagery, solid performances, and truthfully one of my favorite scripts of this year. I don’t want to say you should skip the third act all together, as if anything it will make you appreciate the beginning more. It’s just a shame to see this film come so close only to lose its footing. Just remember, if you want more of these big blockbuster films from directors like Miller such as his upcoming Furiosa prequel, you at least have to do them a solid and check out their weirder, more out-there passion projects. I mean there’s a 20 foot tall, naked Idris Elba constantly radiating sensual heat. Not gonna find that in Mad Max.
For this cocktail I wanted to be a bit adventurous, lest I become too content like our MC Alithea here. I’ve looked towards some Middle Eastern inspirations for this cocktail, which has introduced me to a new spirit called arak. Arak is a 12th century Arab invention typically made of two particular ingredients; grapes and anise. This gives it a distinct herbal flavor that usually gravitates towards licorice, similar to absinthe. I understand this may not appeal to the broad spectrum of palettes out there, but I found that a mixing of coconut water and lemon juice really reels that anise flavor back, but doesn’t completely cover it. It’s a tad tart with a faint taste of licorice near the tail end that generates a very unique flavor profile. And to add a little magic to it, I’ve added a tiny amount of gold luster dust to give it a shiny, glimmering appearance. No mystical slave in a bottle required.
- 1.5oz arak
- 2oz coconut water
- 2 dashes lavender bitters
- 3/5oz lemon juice
- 1tsp edible gold luster dust
- Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice.
- Double strain into chilled martini glass.