On the Silver Screen – Lucy
Scarlett Johansson stars as the titular character in Lucy; the story of a student accidentally exposed to a wonder-drug that enables her to access the full potential of the human brain. Luc Besson writes and directs this sci-fi action/thriller.
The story wastes no time in getting started as Lucy (Johansson) is tricked into delivering a brief case for a guy she is seeing; before she knows it her situation gets a lot worse and she finds herself forcibly employed as a drug mule for a new substance. A beating causes her to take a sizable dose of the drug and she finds herself with super powers. As summaries go it doesn’t sound that bad, a little standard fare perhaps but not necessarily bad. Putting it mildly the summary doesn’t do the film justice; there is literally nothing good about this absolute mess.
Lucy is at its worst when it tries to be clever; my theory is that Luc Besson started out wanting to write a philosophical screenplay that explores the meaning of existence but realised somewhere in the first draft that he had no idea how to actually explore it so gave up and went for what we got here instead. I have no problem with dumb films -see my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction for qualification on that- but I have a real problem with dumb films that try to pretend that they are intelligent and thought provoking. In the story, Lucy gains a comprehensive understanding of the nature of existence but the film does nothing more than tell us this. Any exploration of the idea is cast aside for nonsense exposition or boring action scenes. The only real explanation that’s given is that we wouldn’t understand the knowledge she possesses but not to worry, she does and she’s going to leave a record of it for when she’s gone and we’re able to comprehend it. As far as I’m concerned this is lazy writing and you don’t just get to claim that the audience won’t understand and call it a day. If Luc Besson wants to have a go at exploring the philosophical ramifications of a human being suddenly gaining ultimate knowledge and what that means to her as well as the world then he absolutely should but some attempt should actually be made to explore this idea instead of glossing over it with the insulting you just wouldn’t understand explanation.
There’s lots of pretentious footage of animals doing things to try and make some kind of point about evolution. The creation of the universe and even pointless CGI Dinosaurs are also featured adding up to a muddled veneer of intelligence through seemingly unconnected footage. For instance, the footage of predators catching their prey when Lucy is initially captured is really ridiculous and symbolically makes no sense. Lucy wasn’t being hunted by those people, she was simply captured and forced to do a job for them.
Any science that the film tries to peddle immediately falls apart when the dreaded “fact” of human beings only using 10% of their brains is used to set up the premise. This has long since been rendered nonsense so any scientific discussion in the film immediately becomes nonsense following this. The fact that it’s delivered with such sincerity from Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman makes it all the more eye rolling. This is something of a personal bugbear for me as I can’t believe that screenwriters are still using this as it is so plainly untrue. Basically it meant that I was unable to accept this film pretty much from the beginning but it really didn’t do anything to change my mind after this. The periodic indicators of what percentage of her brain Lucy has currently unlocked are laughable.
Some of this could be forgiven if the film was actually somewhat fun to watch but it just isn’t. The action sequences are really boring which surprises me for someone with Besson’s action background. The scene where Lucy gets her powers is sort of impressive if a little ridiculous but that’s about it for the watchable portions of the movie. Johansson does a good job as Lucy but doesn’t really have a lot to work with here; her character is bland and uninteresting often doing things that are morally wrong which just causes her to be unlikeable. If the idea was to show her becoming something more than human but at the same time less than human then the mark is completely missed here.
In conclusion, nothing about this film works. It’s a really dumb movie masquerading itself as a smart movie but failing to do so even on a superficial level. A lazily written script, boring story, cringeworthy pseudo science and awful action scenes make this a complete chore to sit through. Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman do the best with what they’re given but there’s really nothing to work with here.