Fans of Mad Max still anxiously await the return of the post-apocalyptic action series with hopefully not just one, but two more installments. However, director George Miller has been hard at work on another big movie that sounds totally different. His Fury Road follow-up will be an epic romance titled Three Thousand Years of Longing, and it’s set to star Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. According to The Hollywood Reporter, worldwide pre-sales for the movie are ensuring its imminent production.
Previously called Djinn in the original report about Elba and Swinton’s casting, Three Thousand Years of Longing is billed in the most limited of terms at the moment. It’s a love story that Miller wrote himself. Oh, and it will feature a genie in some way. So, as discordant as those combined elements could sound in the hands of lesser filmmakers, Miller has always been delightfully innovative and he certainly has the benefit of the right cast on board.
We have been tracking Elba’s various acting and producing endeavors and just know that he is up for absolutely any kind of role. Elba may very well be one of the most versatile actors around. He is someone who is able to turn up the cheese levels to fill a ridiculous action vehicle or superhero flick. Yet, he has the effortless gravitas necessary for more serious projects. Elba’s natural onscreen presence makes us believe that he can be a Cats villain, a Fast and Furious (adjacent) baddie, and Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame simultaneously. He’s just that much of a joy to watch.
Swinton arguably has a similar onscreen “it” factor. I remember first coming across her in both Constantine and the first installment of The Chronicles of Narnia and being absolutely captivated by her starkly individual performances. My fascination with her naturally chameleonic capabilities has been irrevocably stirred since, with both pre- and post-2005 Swinton being worth celebrating. Her initial forays into experimental film with Derek Jarman are known for their emotionally piercing qualities. More mainstream fare starting with The Deep End in 2001 continue to seal the deal of Swinton’s cinematic salience. She is so good at being gravely eccentric for artier directors like Jim Jarmusch and Bong Joon-ho. In contrast, she somehow finds herself appearing in Judd Apatow and Marvel movies, too (however ill-advised her whitewashed Ancient One still is).
That’s a dynamic duo if I ever saw one. Elba and Swinton would be perfect together for an offbeat romance, but would it be all that shocking if Swinton played the genie in question? Nope. With so little plot information, nothing in Miller’s past work really helps us discern what Three Thousand Years of Longing actually is. Nevertheless, his own track record hasn’t let anyone down with all things off-kilter, and that’s what we can trust in. Miller often seeks to incorporate worthwhile messages into frivolous-seeming genres that could have been written off as mindless entertainment. He has made inspired family films and action flicks alike that happen to be organic and lovable in unique ways.
Of course, we have to discuss the Mad Max series, also known as Miller’s magnum opus. Those loosely connected movies have ingrained excellently immersive dystopian worlds into our cultural psyches. The desert wastelands at the heart of Mad Max demand that audiences see, hear, and basically feel the rumbling action of the vehicular mayhem that’s before them. And sometimes, as is especially the case for Mad Max: Fury Road, unexpected storytelling themes deepen the premises of these films considerably. The addition of feminist refrains to the basic survival narrative made Fury Road a cultural talking point in 2015 for good reason. It’s genuinely exciting and empowering to see the series develop in this direction while maintaining a gorgeous palette of visual impact.
Moreover, Miller’s contributions to Babe and Happy Feet — simple family films that they are — are truly memorable as well. The former is about a talking pig who ends up being a wonderful sheepdog. Miller co-wrote and produced that original film based on Dick King-Smith’s 1983 novel The Sheep-Pig before proceeding to also helm the sequel, Babe: Pig in the City. Both Babe films exude whimsy at its finest, with the sequel particularly pushing the limits of visual artistry and darker narrative potency. Comparatively, Happy Feet and its follow-up are adorably idiosyncratic in their own ways, featuring quirky, personable singing animals. However, underpinning these animated gems is a cogent message of environmentalism.
Hence, more than anything, Miller’s movies are, almost contradictorily, pleasantly astonishing. They are noteworthy for playing into genre conventions admirably while ensuring that we as audiences aren’t just getting an entirely run-of-the-mill cinemagoing experience. Three Thousand Years of Longing couldn’t arrive soon enough.