Review: Lucy (Besson, 2014)

Still from the movie Lucy

Diehard Scarlett Johansson fans will likely love this movie no matter what I say, but the rest of you can safely take a pass. I watched this during summer blockbuster season, which, to me, represents a dry spell at the theaters, though I’m sure lovers of comic book and superhero movies will vehemently disagree. Lucy worked well for us schedule-wise, so that’s what we watched.

This action flick was directed by Luc Besson, most well-known for The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, and La Femme Nikita. Of these I’ve just seen The Fifth Element, which made only a glancing impression on me but which, from talking to others, I’m assured was a crowd-pleaser. Hoping for the same from Lucy, I was prepared to be more open-minded than usual, sit back, and enjoy some mindless good fun.

“Mindless” it certainly was, though “good fun” is more subjective. I think my movie-watching partner found it enjoyable, at least visually, at least some of the time. I, unfortunately, couldn’t look past the pseudo-scientific babble upon which the whole premise of the movie hinges. You see, Lucy is just your normal college-aged airhead (studying in Taipei though she knows no Mandarin?) when she gets caught in a drug deal gone bad. An extremely large dose of the new synthetic drug ends up releasing into her body, which then allows Lucy to access parts of her brain that we regular humans have never figured out how to utilize. The film splices between scenes of Lucy undergoing her superhero-like transformation and Professor Morgan Freeman (I mean, Professor Norman) explaining the theory behind brain capacity augmentation to a lecture hall filled with a rapt, receptive audience. The film rests on the myth that people use only 10% of their brain, suggesting that, should we release the capabilities of the other 90%, our powers could be extraordinary. Lucy sets out to show us just how extraordinary those powers can be, from stopping or deflecting matter to stopping or deflecting time, from reading minds to reading cell phone signals, from absorbing all the knowledge of humankind in a matter of minutes to absorbing all the knowledge of all time, also in a matter of minutes. (There is a scene where Lucy’s disembodied body–I know, it doesn’t make sense, but just believe–sits on a chair in Times Square and flicks through moments in history as though flicking from screen to screen on a world-sized iPhone. She gets all the way back to the dinosaurs, all the way back–forward?–to the first humanoid, also named, yes, you guessed it, Lucy!). All the same, Lucy can’t do everything on her own (I don’t get it, why the hell not?!–there seems to be no limit to her powers), so she must seek out the help of Professor Morgan Freeman as well as poor, mortal Pierre del Rio (Amr Waked), France’s Head of Police or perhaps Head of Interpol? (it’s never quite clear). Then again, maybe she’s just there to educate Freeman, to love (briefly and superficially) Del Rio. At the end there is an amusing if faint echo of Johansson’s role in Spike Jonze‘s Her, but the likeness is probably just a coincidence.

Okay, gripes aside, if you do end up watching this film, take my advice and just don’t think about it too much. Maybe you’ll even like it–who am I to say?