In “Lucy”, Luc Besson has crafted an experimental 45 minute film, an art house meditation akin to “Under The Skin” on the nature of intelligence, awareness, interconnectedness and what it means to be human. Unfortunately, to stretch out the running time he’s wrapped it up inside a really dumb action movie that’s crashed into a superhero origin story and papered over the cracks with footage he’s recorded from the National Geographic Channel.
When Lucy is tricked by her new boyfriend into delivering a package to a Taiwanese hotel, she finds herself kidnapped and forced to act as a courier for an experimental narcotic which is forcibly sewn into her abdomen. However, after a brutal assault by one of her captors, the package breaks and begins leaking its contents into her bloodstream with startling results. The extreme dose begins to unlock the ‘unused’ potential of Lucy’s brain, granting her extraordinary abilities and changing the very nature of her consciousness.
Like some kind of cinematic chimera, “Lucy” is a haphazard mixture of elements, each of which diminish the others instead of coming together and amplifying the whole. The creation of a new superhero whose powers are derived from an experimental narcotic that they need continued, dangerous doses of to stay alive and super powered is a pretty good idea. The idea of a Far East drug ring coming into conflict with European law enforcement through the actions of one or more of its mules is okay, if a little clichéd. The exploration of the idea of what would happen if you could expand your awareness to an almost infinite level, from the sub-atomic to the galactic scale and beyond is fascinating. Each of these could be a pretty good movie on their own. What they can’t do, however, is comfortably coexist in one catch-all film. Maybe we’re witnessing the birth of a new kind of entertainment…
Tired of spending too much time watching different genres of film?
Struggling to keep track of what kind of film you’ve watched and
what you should watch next? Then why not consolidate your film
watching into one easy to manage 90 minute package?
Art house scifi? No problem. Straight-to-DVD action flick? Included!
Superhero popcorn blockbuster? All taken care of.
Yes, for the price of one ticket, you can now watch all your chosen movies at once!
Scarlett Johansson, to her credit, picks one aspect out of the cornucopia of plot elements and plays directly to that. Fortunately, the film she decides to make is the speculative, thoughtful sci-fi contemplation of the expanding consciousness the magical drug gives Lucy. This may be a female-led action film but Scarlett Johansson spends little of it being the martial-arts wielding butt-kicking Black Widow-esque heroine you might be expecting and instead gives a tremendously nuanced performance of a human being evolving beyond the petty tribulations of everyday life and struggling to retain a connection to the world she knew.
Morgan Freeman, on the other hand, is wasted as a famed scientist who is given little more to do than repeatedly put forth the most wilfully ignorant, pseudo-scientific gobbledygook this side of the Kansas State Department of Education. As is well known, nature and evolution are extremely wasteful in the way organisms develop so it only stands to reason that human beings would develop a brain ten times the size it needed to be. Of course, the 10% of brain capacity trope is a myth, a particularly persistent one, but absolutely untrue but this movie doesn’t care and not only bets on that premise, but keeps on doubling down to gloriously nonsensical effect. But when you hear it in the velvety gravelled tones of Morgan Freeman, it doesn’t half sound convincing…
“Lucy” is not the film I was hoping for from the trailers but it has its own weird kind of eccentric and chaotic beauty, despite its many, many flaws. The Taiwanese Drug Lord and his minions are wafer-thin one-note characters, while Amr Waked as Police Detective Pierre Del Rio is, along with most of the Paris police force, little more than cannon fodder for the shootout at the end which is as inevitable as it is unnecessary. Despite a cracking car chase (this is a Luc Besson film after all), I was ready to give the whole thing up as a bad mistake but I can’t deny that when the film took an abrupt and unexpectedly metaphysical turn, almost touching Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” for WTF weirdness and profundity, it surprised and delighted the hell out of me.
Its little wonder a film made up by jamming three different films together provokes such a mixed response. I loved one of the films, liked another and could take or leave the third. Which one, if any, will you like? It’s worth finding out.