LUCY Review

     July 24, 2014

lucy-review

Luc Besson’s new film Lucy often feels like 10% of a movie, despite its very clear ambitions to be some sort of ultimate experience. Which is weird because it nails so many of its objectives.  It’s gorgeously shot.  It’s incredibly kinetic and, even when it’s not in the middle of an action scene, it’s rarely static.  Scarlett Johansson throws everything she has into the role (or, at least, gives the role everything it requires of her).  And yet I had to do everything I could to keep from falling asleep during the film’s turgid first act.

That’s some feat considering the fact that Lucy wastes absolutely no time getting started.  The film hits the ground running when Johansson’s titular character is roped into a bizarre drug deal by a sweaty, shady boyfriend she’s only known for a week.  An American student studying abroad in Taipei, she’s the epitome of a normal person thrust into an impossible circumstance when the deal goes sour and she wakes up with a plastic bag of blue powder inside her abdomen.  That powder happens to be a synthetic drug modeled upon a naturally occurring chemical compound that mothers pass along to their fetuses in order to kickstart their development.  And when that bag starts to leak, it gives Lucy access to more than 10% of her brain.  When that happens, she’s well on her way to becoming a god that can control… pretty much everything.  Which provides little in the way of conflict.  When your protagonist is all seeing, all knowing and all powerful there’s never really a moment when all the chips are down.

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While all of this is going on, Morgan Freeman’s character is giving a lecture to a group of students in Paris that just happens to dovetail thematically into the expansion Lucy’s brain is undergoing.  I applaud that Besson (who also wrote the film) simply doesn’t care that his central scientific conceit (humans only use 10% of their brain) is considered an across-the-board falsehood by the scientific community.  He insists that Freeman deliver this nonsense seriously.  Like most of the documentaries he’s involved with, Freeman basically serves as a narrator for the first half of the film, explaining each development in Lucy’s brain as she experiences it.  For a while I was excited by the meta aspect of him basically narrating the entire movie, but eventually he’s brought into the main story through an unnecessary contrivance.

It doesn’t help that Lucy is flat-out dumb.  This film is basically Crank doing a cover song of 2001.  And while I’m glad the movie is aware of its role as base entertainment (it seems to know that even its ethereal National Geographic cutaways are utterly meaningless), I wish it was more successful in its brazen attempts to thrill.  But we’ve seen everything here before, both in the film’s trailer and in other (better) movies.  The film has almost every bit of eye candy imaginable, but fails utterly to make you care about what’s happening.  Attractive but not intelligent and good looking with nothing to say – Lucy is the high school crush that grew up to be rather boring indeed.

Rating: C

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