Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2022)
70 years old when the movie hit the screens, George Miller enjoyed a major critical and financial success with 2015ís Mad Max: Fury Road. Given his age, one might think this would inspire him to crank out another movie quickly.
Nope. Audiences still wait for a follow-up to Fury Road, which will finally arrive in 2024 with the spinoff Furiosa. I guess Miller felt content to relax for a few years before he embarked on another project.
2022 brought Millerís first movie since Fury Road: Three Thousand Years of Longing. An adaptation of a 1994 short story, this one offers a mix of fantasy, romance and drama.
Scholar Dr. Althea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) leads a solitary life that revolves entirely around her work. This takes her to Istanbul for a conference.
As she roams around town, Althea finds an intriguing glass bottle, one with a shocking secret: a Djinn (Idris Elba) lives inside it. When he offers the traditional three wishes, Althea finds herself on an unexpected journey.
In theory, I appreciate the fact Miller didnít immerse himself in the world of Mad Max right after the success of Fury Road. I admire that he decided to avoid that easy path and he chose to do something different for his follow-up project.
That said, it perplexes me that he waited so darned long to create another film. Honestly, it feels odd that any director would sit idle for seven years after a major hit, but it becomes even more befuddling given Millerís age. He will be nearly 80 when Furiosa makes it to screens, which seems like a he might take his continued health for granted.
In any case, I do admire the breadth of Millerís filmography. Since he made his name with the Mad Max movies, he easily couldíve stayed in that wheelhouse and simply churned out one action flick after another.
And through 1985, it looked like that might end up his fate, but with 1987ís Witches of Eastwick, Miller branched out and then avoided the action genre for the 30 years between Max movies. He even branched into family fare with films like 1995ís Babe, his first Oscar-nominated effort.
At least superficially, Years offers a throwback to Eastwick, since both provide fantasies aimed at adult audiences. One could also argue both rely on talented casts to carry them, as Eastwick boasted Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon as its leads.
Years lacks that filmís star power, but with Elba and Swinton in tow, it comes with a strong core pair of actors. Unfortunately, they demonstrate little chemistry together, a factor that makes it difficult to buy into the romance at the storyís heart.
That said, I canít really fault the actors for the inert feel of Years. Instead, the issue comes from the sluggish story and general lack of real purpose on display here.
Though Althea acts as the movieís nominal protagonist, the majority of the film revolves around the Djinnís tales of his past. Those represent the titular millennia of sadness, as we continually hear of the Djinnís dreams of connection and love.
Unfortunately, this makes Years episodic and rarely especially involving. Miller doesnít play up the fantasy aspects of the Djinnís history in an especially compelling manner, and he fizzles when he tries to portray the romance and heartbreak as well.
Years tends to feel cold and clinical, which I guess makes some sense if we view the movie from Altheaís point of view. After all, she exists as the scientist and skeptic.
However, Althea appears to buy into the Djinnís tales pretty rapidly and her disbelief fails to play much of a role. Althea pays some lip service to the notion that her experience represents a dream and not reality, but for the most part, she engages without obvious doubt.
As such, I donít think Years goes for a less than warm tone as a reflection of Altheaís perspective. Instead, I believe Miller simply doesnít have a feel for that kind of material and found himself unable to portray these emotions in a strong manner.
This leads to a movie that feels like it wants to be a grown-up version of Aladdin but without nearly as much charm and engagement. Years looks pretty but it never turns into an involving work.