Never let it be said that Idris Elba is a one-trick pony.
Last week he was punching a lion in the modestly elevated B-movie, Beast.
This week he’s pouring himself out of a bottle as a bona fide three-wish-granting genie, in Mad Max director George Miller’s CGI-heavy fantasy, 3000 Years of Longing.
You know the sort – voiced by the late Robin Williams in the Disney animated film, Aladdin, or played far less successfully by Will Smith in the live action adaptation.
And who could forget Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie – low-key racism and sexism can be fun with the addition of canned laughter!
Elba is not that kind of genie.
Instead, the British actor’s character is rooted in pre-Islamic Arabic mythology, when genies were known by their un-Anglicised name, Jinn or, in the case of this movie, Djinn.
Adapted from the short story, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, by AS Blatt, Miller’s film centres on a lonely English scholar, Dr Alithea Binnie, who is played with the perfect amount of intellectual superiority by the whip-smart Tilda Swinton.
Alithea’s area of academic interest is storytelling, and she travels to all corners of the globe in the hope of distilling the tales of disparate cultures down to a singular truth.
So, when a trip to Turkey sees a delicate glass bottle come into her possession, only to release an over-sized Djinn into her hotel room, the scholar feels well-equipped to deal with the consequences.
When Elba’s Djinn offers to grant her heart’s desire with a trio of wishes – after first outlining the usual caveats, such as no wishing for infinite wishes – Alithea is far from enamoured with the idea.
“All stories about wishing are cautionary tales,” she informs her mystical visitor, and, besides, her solitary existence has left her perfectly content.
“I can’t summon up one eligible wish, let alone three,” she says, before suggesting the Djinn find someone more gullible and greedy.
But the process doesn’t work like that, and, to illustrate the point, the Djinn embarks on a series of stories about the past three millennia of his life, which revolve around great loves, great moments of history and a great deal of bad luck.
As an expert in stories, Alithea is soon swept up in the Djinn’s magical world of wishing, and subject to the consequences she initially feared.
Grotesquely beautiful in the way of a Guillermo del Toro film, 3000 Years of Longing is a fine showcase of Miller’s visionary skills as a director.
And it’s a nice change of speed from Mad Max: Fury Road.
But, ultimately, the movie doesn’t quite live up to its grand premise, and isn’t as clever as it might think it is.
Starring: Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, David Collins, Kaan Guldur
In Cinemas: Now