Photo courtesy United Artists

One of the oldest stories out there is a genie granting three wishes to the person who finds his magic lamp.

Director George Miller uses this premise to celebrate stories and storytelling in his ambitious, yet uneven, visual feast “Three Thousand Years of Longing.”

Tilda Swinton plays Alithea, a lonely scholar who travels to Istanbul to deliver a lecture on ancient folklore. While at a bazaar she purchases an odd glass container and while she is cleaning it up in her hotel room, she releases a djinn (Idris Elba) who will grant her three wishes for setting him free.

Well aware that all wish-granting stories wind up being cautionary tales, Alithea is reluctant to take the djinn up on his offer. So instead he tells her three stories that resulted in his imprisonment, all tales of love and loss set against the backdrop of antiquity.

Miller is all about the visuals as you’ll know if you’ve seen any of his “Mad Max” movies. With “Three Thousand Years of Longing” he leans hard into the bustling palaces and magical flourishes of the djinn’s adventures.

There are a lot of interesting ideas floating around here in regards to loneliness, storytelling and manipulation, but Miller can’t seem to tie them together in any sort of meaningful way.

Swinton and Elba are great, doing a lot of their work just wearing bathrobes and chatting in a hotel room. They make their characters lively and compelling even if their stories get a bit muddled.

It is ironic and disappointing that a movie that celebrates storytelling fumbles the plot, but the visuals and performances are impressive enough to land this film on the positive side of the ledger.

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is a fun little diversion, but it falls well short of leaving you wanting more.

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is rated R for some sexual content, graphic nudity and brief violence.

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