Starring: Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin), Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight), Choi Min-sik (Oldboy), Amr Waked (Contagion), Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid Love)
Writer/Director: Luc Besson (The Fifth Element)
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes
Release Date: 25 July (US), 22 August (UK)
Let’s just get this out of the way first: the whole “humans only use 10% of their brains” thing is utter bullshit; an urban myth. There is still plenty about the human brain we don’t yet understand, but that doesn’t mean that most of it is just sitting there doing nothing. That said, the concept has allowed for some interesting fiction jumping off that idea such as the criminally underrated Limitless. But where that film took a silly little idea and turned it into something cool, Lucy is under the impression that that silly little idea is something unparalleled and therefore gets lost in its own pretentious immaturity.
Lucy is most comparable to this year’s Transcendence, and not just because both movies have Morgan Freeman in them. They are similar because both of them are movies trying to be smarter than they are, and in the process only make themselves look that much more stupid. The plot is flimsy and ill conceived, dashing from plot point to plot point before reaching a baffling and laughably “deep” conclusion that, despite its ridiculousness, still manages to disappoint. Though the story moves briskly and with little downtime, it lacks any sense of tension. Once Lucy (Johansson) begins gaining her powers, any sense of danger or threat is immediately disintegrated because there’s nothing that can stop her. It’s like playing a video game with all the cheats on: it may be cathartic fun at first, but without any challenge the experience loses lustre. Perhaps if there was some threat that could match her ability, give her an adversary that actually tests her, maybe then there would have been something. But no, instead we just get Lucy defeating people without any resistance. If our main character is so blasé about what’s going on around her, why should we care?
Which brings us to another problem stemming from that lack of threat: because Lucy quickly becomes this ponderous shell with no emotion or feeling, it’s hard to connect with her. Before she becomes that, when there is still some threat to her life, Johansson does get to shine and perfectly sells this shallow but frightened young woman. There is also a great scene where she calls her parents soon after gaining her powers that is actually quite touching and makes we wish there were more moments like that. But after that, her humanity becomes ripped out and any sense of a person that was there is gone. Then again, it seems the filmmakers were aware of this, which is why we get the superfluous character of Del Rio (Waked), who in the second half of the movie is basically there to just gawp at Lucy as she does cool stuff and to give us something to vaguely connect to; this is blatantly made clear when he says “I don’t think I’m much help to you”, to which Lucy replies “You’re a reminder” [face palm]. Morgan Freeman here seems to serve the same role he did in Transcendence: saying a load of science-y bollocks to convince us that this is all plausible because, hey, if Morgan Freeman says it, it must be true. Choi Min-sik feels utterly wasted in this film as the generic psycho bad guy who, as said before, poses no threat whatsoever because we know Lucy could evaporate him at any moment. In fact, she gets several chances to do so in the movie and she never does. Wouldn’t someone so disconnected from humanity see his existence as a threat to her goals and take him out of the equation, deadly force or not? Oh yeah, but then we wouldn’t have adversaries to inconsequentially take out during the rushed climax.
Though the action sequences lack tension, they at least look pretty. The cinematography and production design have a bright and cool feel to them, giving the film a good deal of visual identity. Unfortunately, one of its main technical quirks is just bizarre and unnecessary. Often during the film, they will cut to some nature footage to convey something metaphorical. For example, when Lucy is being asked to deliver a briefcase at the beginning, there is a quick cut to a mouse being lured into a mousetrap. Why? To slam the obvious metaphor into your head, of course. It’s like Luc Besson is trying to emulate Terrence Malick or something, but completely doesn’t get what Malick is doing. Then again, who does?
Lucy is that rare breed of film that is both pretentious and idiotic. It’s almost endearing how smart this film thinks it is when all it’s really doing is procrastinating about life and intelligence to cover up the fact that all it is is just a dumb sci-fi action flick, and not a particularly good one at that. If the film actually had a formidable antagonist and dropped all pretence by just accepting what it is, this could have been goofy fun. Kinda like the films Luc Besson used to make. You know, the good ones. But other than some pretty visuals, a mildly diverting car chase and a solid but wasted effort on Johansson’s part, there’s nothing to recommended here. If you want a similar but better experience, just watch The Fifth Element and Limitless simultaneously, and you’ll be better off.
FINAL VERDICT: 3/10