Like most Luc Besson movies, Lucy is violent, pretentious and stupid. However, like the best of his films, it is also imaginative and thrilling. I was insulted by its bad taste and moronic foundation, but I won’t deny that it often triggered the section of my brain, which entertains guilty pleasures.
The story centers on a mid-twenties American student named Lucy, played by Scarlett Johansson. She is studying abroad in Taiwan and unfortunate circumstances lead her to be forced against her will into a drug-smuggling operation for a new dangerous synthetic substance. The drug packages are concealed through surgical implantation but Lucy’s package is punctured. The drug leaks into her system revealing its effects to be of such a dramatic enhancement of the mind and nervous system, that she becomes a super-being.
So, why did Lucy’s unexpected accident create the first super human, when it could have happened to any test subject in the lab where it was invented? This is a pretty basic curiosity but the movie doesn’t seem interested in addressing it.
Sadly, it doesn’t take long for Lucy to become laugh-worthy as its science-fiction plot is aided by none-other than the go-to story exposition man himself, Morgan Freeman, who is seen delivering a lecture on the human brain -filled with the most hilarious pseudo-science one could imagine.
I’m almost tempted to praise this film for being a return to form for an artist who hasn’t directed a fun movie since his amazing, The Fifth Element. While responsible for writing and producing a few successful action films, including The Transporter and Taken, Besson only sits in the director’s chair occasionally. Until Lucy, I felt as though he’d lost touch with a signature tone, which made his earlier films like La Femme Nikita and Léon: The Professional so beautiful. After watching his embarrassingly unfunny dark comedy, The Family, last year, I felt like he was washed-up.
The film’s strength is undeniably at its beginning, which contains contains everything I’ve missed about his work. A beautiful young woman is at the mercy of powerful men who are unprepared for the monster they will unleash. Johansson’s work is in the tradition of Anne Parillaud, Natalie Portman and Milla Jovovich -all females who brought emotional weight to Besson’s films. The film’s mobster villain, played by Min Sik Choi (star of the original Oldboy) brings an intimidating level of sadism through his screen presence alone.
Eric Serra’s score of ambient orchestral and electronic sounds seduces us into the film’s dark trippy fantasy. Thierry Arbogast’s cinematography follows the action and stages the effects delicately while capturing his signature symmetrical shots.
I am congratulating Besson and his collaborators for achieving a style, which has been long-desired on my part. It is the film’s substance that puts the whole project to shame. The movie has some very cool sequences, but the further it moves along, the more its ideas seem like half-baked rip-offs from other films.
As it got close to the end, I started to hypothesize that Besson’s script was achieved by watching Limitless, Altered States, Crank, The Tree of Life, The Matrix, Scanners, Akira and the very recent but too-similar Transcendence. After this eighteen-hour movie binge, he fell asleep, had a Scarlett Johansson wet dream and started writing Lucy when he awoke.
This movie proposes through a vague understanding, that the average human being uses only ten-percent of their brain’s capacity. I think it takes even less brain power to know that Lucy is ridiculous.