Three Thousand Years Of Longing is the latest film from George Miller, the Australian director best known for the Mad Max film franchise that had new life breathed into it with the stellar Fury Road in 2015. Miller is similarly ambitious in this new film, about a scholar of narrative Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) traveling to Turkey and her chance encounter with an immortal Djinn (Idris Elba)

It’s an interesting setup, a lover of stories being offered three wishes, but first choosing to hear the stories of how the Djinn was trapped for, well, three thousand years. Swinton’s character is also appropriately suspicious of the proposition, accusing him several times of being a trickster. You can’t accuse Alithea of lacking the awareness of some horror movie protagonists, but it won’t necessarily stay consistent throughout the whole story.

The Djinn’s stories go all the way back to eras where myth and history blend, with him encountering figures discussed in the Hebrew bible like King Soloman, to Ottoman Royals like Suleiman the Magnificent. There are some stellar visual tricks on display here to immerse you in the worlds of the stories. However, the cuts back to hotel scenes in the present day just can’t hold a candle to the worlds of the past, and it begins to break immersion slightly when we keep coming back to Elba and Swinton chatting in puffy bathrobes in a dull bedroom.

Elba’s portrayal of the immortal and powerful, but unlucky-and-flawed Djinn is a highlight, and it’s no easy feat to sell a role this far out there. However, with so many impressive visual effects on display, Elba’s special-effects makeup of glitter and scaly materials on his hands and legs did not really add that much wonder to his design. This also includes some digital effects of his powers at work which stuck out like a sore thumb and seemed rushed against other incredibly intricate scenes of the film.

Alithea and the Djinn, unfortunately, didn’t have that much chemistry despite having a majority of screen time. Some of the awkwardness is logical, it’s hard to be extremely natural when you’re meeting an otherworldly being, but it didn’t stop the romantic elements of the story from seeming slightly forced as a result.

Despite plenty of narrative hiccups, it’s hard to deny the breathtaking images so often on display. The gripping moments, wild stunt shots, and several very interesting side character stories seen in fast-forward from the immortal Djinn’s perspective impress enough to make it worth seeing in a theater. The movie is handicapped more often than enhanced, though, by the too-frequent scenes in the modern day.

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