Idris Elba’s Troubled Film Finally Found An Audience On Streaming
Written by patriciavallard on May 26, 2023
Three Thousand Years of Longing is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Fantasy Romance Three Thousand Years of Longing tanked at the box office last year despite a unique premise and critical acclaim. Now the film is getting a second chance thanks to streaming. According to FlixPatrol, the Idris Elba drama is rapidly moving up the streaming charts. The movie is currently the 67th most streamed on Amazon Prime, up 19 places since yesterday and climbing fast.
Three Thousand Years of Longing stars Tilda Swinton as Alithea, a British scholar who suffers from the occasional demonic hallucination. During a trip to Istanbul, Alithea comes across an antique bottle containing a Djinn played by Idris Elba. The Djinn offers Alithea the standard three wishes, and things take off from there.
Throughout the film, Idris Elba’s Djinn tells Alithea stories from his thousands of years of existence, including one about the biblical figure King Solomon. Proving that the Djinn is more powerful than Aladdin‘s blue genie, he grants Alithea’s wish for the two of them to fall in love. Things go awry, however, proving that perhaps Disney was right to limit their genie with no bringing back the dead and no playing Cupid.
Mad Max creator George Miller helmed the movie based on a screenplay written by his daughter Augusta Gore. Miller had originally tasked his good friend and Augusta’s godfather Nick Enright with writing Three Thousand Years of Longing back in the early ’00s, but Enright passed away before he could do so. It was Enright who suggested before he died that Miller should work with his daughter on the project.
The movie was based on the short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt. Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton were both cast in 2018, and Miller expected to begin pre-production on the movie in 2019, with filming to begin on March 2, 2020, in Australia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Sadly, COVID-19 had other ideas.
Pandemic-related delays caused the filming to be pushed back to November 2020 and severely limited George Miller’s plan to shoot in different countries. The UK and Turkey were out, and Miller had to make do with Australia, hoping that his native land could double convincingly for the other two countries. Somehow despite these hindrances, George Miller, along with Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, was able to deliver a movie that earned a six-minute standing ovation at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
It also earned a naked protestor at Cannes. An activist protesting sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine showed up at the movie’s premier and managed to strip completely nude before Cannes security finally took them away. According to Wikipedia, the protestor was apparently screaming the whole time they were performing their striptease.
Despite having the endorsement of the shrieking nudist demographic, and Idris Elba for a lead, Three Thousand Years of Longing was a letdown financially. The movie grossed only 8.3 million in the US and Canada and an additional $12 million in other territories for a total worldwide gross of only $20.3 million. That’s slightly more than a third of the movie’s estimated $60 million budget.
Longing was George Miller’s first movie since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie that can be objectively labeled a masterpiece by every metric—box office, critical acclaim, audience reaction, etc. As such, it was most likely a blow to the director’s ego that his latest film would make no impression on the movie-going public at large whatsoever. In the film’s defense, it is a wildly fantastic, almost experimental concept at a time when the biggest box office draws are by-the-numbers comic-book sequels.
Ironically, Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are both part of the MCU, largely considered the leader in today’s cookie-cutter superhero-dominated theatrical landscape. Funny that the two may have indirectly contributed to the very culture that makes a cinematic oddity like Three Thousand Years of Longing such a long shot at the movies.
Luckily, like all movies with an original premise that gets overlooked during their theatrical run, the Idris Elba fantasy drama is finding its audience on home video and streaming. Whether the film will garner a cult following or like fellow box office failure Office Space, or even go mainstream like bombs Fight Club and Blade Runner eventually did, remains to be seen.
At the very least, Three Thousand Years of Longing is bound to fair better than another prominent entry in the very specific Black Genie genre, the Shaquille O’Neal abomination Kazaam….or was it Sinbad in Shazaam? Stupid Mandela effect.
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