Lucy, the latest offering from acclaimed French director Luc Besson is a cerebral science-fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson that explores the myth that humans only use ten percent of their brain capacity, and the consequences that might occur should further percentage use be unlocked. My relationship with sci-fi in cinema is very much routed in the classics, preferring the Stars Wars, Alien and Terminator franchises over more recent offerings. However, with my nerdy interest being reignited by a successful trip to see Guardians Of The Galaxy, Lucy seemed to be the next logical step in my rejuvenated penchant for the fantastical. With the film doing unexpectedly big business on both sides of the pond, I had high hopes that Scarlett Johansson’s third sci-fi instalment of the year after Her and Under The Skin would live up to the hype and match the quality of the previous two.
Lucy begins in a very promising fashion, the amount of exposition is at an absolute minimum as within five minutes of being introduced to the lead character the meat of the narrative is already underway. The set up is simple, Lucy (Johansson), an American citizen living and studying in Taipei, is forced by her casual boyfriend to deliver a suspicious suitcase to a ‘Mr. Jang’ at his hotel, and is then taken against her will to a suite and subsequently knocked unconscious. She comes to with an unexplained surgery wound on her abdomen, and it is explained to Lucy and the audience that a quantity of blue crystal drugs has been placed inside her for the purposes of international smuggling. However, the plot takes a severe turn when the package breaks and begins to leak in to her system, causing, far fetchedly, her brain capacity to begin to increase. Unfortunately, it is also at this point that the film begins to lose its mind and my interest. The types of powers that Lucy’s new found brain capacity unlocks include telekinesis, the ability to access and control electrical systems, hyper senses and super hero like fighting skills, and though some of the numerous set pieces are fun to watch, the narrative breaks down in to a series of fight scenes that pose little sense of dread or threat to the audience as they know that as Lucy’s powers increase, she will become almost infallible. As her percentage increases, Lucy becomes a very robotic character and one that the audience find it hard to find empathy for. Johansson has played this type of character to much better effect in Under The Skin, though admittedly as the protagonist of a much more engaging narrative. Though the middle portion of the film becomes rather repetitive and tedious, the anticipation and prospect of what would happen when Lucy reached 100% was enough to keep me mildly inquisitive, but the picture’s largest flaw is the fact that its climactic sequence is somewhat of an unintelligible mess. It feels as though Besson had so many different ideas that he tried to incorporate all of them instead of producing a more streamlined, focused ending. Lucy’s fate and the film’s final scenes feel more like a ill judged student made concept film rather than an intelligent, well balanced and well evidenced conclusion from a filmmaker well versed in the science-fiction genre.
Though the film as a whole loses its way after the first act, it has to be said that Scarlett Johansson is an engaging and well cast lead. She has proven her action worth in films like The Avengers and has numerous credits to attest to her dramatic abilities, and both ends of the spectrum are needed for the role of Lucy. I would go so far to say that it is Johansson’s presence that stops the film from becoming flat out ridiculous in its latter stages, as the rules of the science fiction get muddier and muddier. Morgan Freeman makes a rather meagre supporting appearance as an academic professor who is a strong proponent of the very myth that we see coming to fruition on screen, and though I am always glad for a chance to see the great man in action, one can’t help but feel that Freeman was cast simply for reasons of authoritative voice. Films like The Shawshank Redemption and even March Of The Penguins have ingrained in us the feeling that everything that comes out of Morgan Freeman’s mouth must be believed and respected, and it seems as though the filmmakers have given Freeman all of the explanatory dialogue to make the debatable scientific myths seem more plausible than they actually are. His character is limited to scenes of exposition, a somewhat wasted opportunity in my mind. The only other character of note comes in the form of Pierre del Rio (played by Amr Waked), a local police captain who acts as something of a companion to Lucy in the final third of the film. That character is utterly forgettable, however, with dialogue full of so many cliches that I was sat waiting for him to sigh and exclaim “I’m too old for this shit”.
Overall, Lucy is an ambitious film with a potentially interesting premise that just doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. Scarlett Johansson continues to be an enjoyable on screen presence, but the tenuous nature of the myth around which the film revolves was ultimately a little bit too much for me to just sit back and be comfortable with. I know that science-fiction and fantasy, by their very roots, ask the audience to suspend disbelief, but in this case it was just all a bit too, well, stupid.