UK Release: 22/08/2014
Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked
First things first – yes, Lucy is based on a scientific fallacy. Most of the marketing for the film included the science-bending tag-line, “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%”. And while that’s complete and utter nonsense, it’s only the beginning of Lucy’s troubles…
Scarlett Johansson stars as the wide-eyed and rather naïve Lucy – a young woman who has clearly partied too hard across Taiwan. Complete with tiny dress and a week-old boyfriend, it’s clear that Lucy is the epitome of excess, living it up in a foreign land before heading back to the reality of life at home. But it seems that’s not meant to be.
Quickly caught up in a plot to smuggle a new drug into Europe, Lucy finds herself sliced open and turned into an unexpected drug mule. And when the bag splits inside her, this new drug has some rather unexpected side effects.
In fact, with very little setup and a great big plunge straight into the action, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is Luc Besson at his finest. All the hallmarks are there, and it’ll remind you exactly which films you love from Besson’s back catalogue… but Lucy isn’t going to top that list.
Now, don’t get me wrong – the acting throughout is brilliant. Scarlett Johansson really gets into character early on, and the difference between our first glimpse of Lucy and her evolved state is effective and startling. Morgan Freeman plays the evolutionary scientist to perfection and even the reluctant cop-friend role of Amr Waked sits right where it needs to be.
But the problem is in the plot.
It’s an interesting concept at first glance – the idea of a human pushing the boundaries of what humanity is supposed to be is a refreshing notion and one that tends to work well on the big screen. But Luc Besson struggles to get it right.
There are plenty of ‘flashy’ CGI graphics to show you exactly what’s going on in Lucy’s body but it all comes across as a bit ‘Fight Club’ and not in a good way. The CGI graphics soon start to spill over into the ‘real’ world as Lucy gains control of her newfound powers and while some of them work well (such as plucking the strings of the digital web around her) others leave a lot to be desired. And let’s face it – these flashy sequences just can’t hide the fact that Lucy has suddenly become a rather unnatural protagonist.
After being subjected to CPH4, Lucy quickly starts to develop strange new powers and an understanding of the world that most scientific minds would kill for… and it’s only natural that this should be accompanied by an increasing detachment towards humanity.
Soon enough, she’s treating people like playthings and despatching police and innocent civilians as if they are nothing. So far so grim. But the problem is with her emotional journey. To put it bluntly, there isn’t one.
Lucy’s immediate change is so rapid, it leaves you wondering whether Besson could have gleamed a bigger reaction by a more gradual decent into this uncaring yet omnipotent state. And by the time it gets round to the rather unsatisfying ending, you have to wonder – what was gained from any of this? Did Lucy learn a valuable life lesson? Has the world been changed by her mere presence?
Other than a rather handy McGuffin that came out of nowhere in the final act, there’s not much else to be gained. And that’s the biggest let down of the entire movie – where Lucy could have delivered on the promise of its concept, it just fell flat in the most tremendous way possible.