(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = ok, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
Visually stunning and incredibly thought provoking yet not as thrilling as I expected, these were my initial thoughts coming out of the theater. Having seen it a second time has only reinforced those thoughts. Lucy looks incredible (Scarlett isn’t half bad either) and may twist your brain in ways you never thought possible but it just isn’t all that entertaining (read: fun) when it comes down to it. Scarlett Johansson turns in a powerful performance as the titular Lucy but everyone else around her is one-note and inconsequential. While intriguing from a theoretical perspective, making it work on camera is another story.
Lucy’s story is pretty straightforward, a regular twenty something party girl out in the middle of Taipei, Taiwan is tricked into delivering drugs to a sadistic crime lord (Min-Sik Choi) and is then forced into smuggling them across the border. On her way across said border her handlers decide to beat her up, unintentionally ripping the sac of drugs in her intestines and spilling them into her system. Lucy then develops super powers as she gains access to more and more of her brain capacity. In her heightened state she chooses to collect the rest of the drugs and pass on her vast knowledge while being hunted down by the crime lord that got her into this mess in the first place. She must deal with her dwindling humanity and an endless stream of Taiwanese thugs as she attempts to unravel the secrets of existence… It sounds better than it is, although it is pretty good.. confusing, not unlike my thoughts regarding the film.
Early trailers would have you believe Lucy is a non-stop actioner featuring the crazy hot Scarlett Johansson, while it does feature the actress in question it fails to deliver on the action beats. As Lucy gets further and further adjusted to the drug her powers become more and more godlike. Walking into a room filled with gangsters and machine guns usually leads to an intense firefight but in this case she simply thinks them to sleep and continues on her merry way. This is still definitely cool but not nearly as exciting as what could have been. Director Luc Besson essentially directed himself into a corner with Lucy. In order to convey the transcendent state of the protagonist he had to sacrifice high octane choreography thus leading to a slower and less stimulating film. All that being said, the sacrifice is a well made one. The existential and philosophical theories are extremely intriguing for all of those interested in such topics, but for those going in looking for the flying fists and bullets, not so much.
Scarlett Johansson does a fantastic job in the title role, before her transformation she is just an ordinary girl horrified at the situation she finds herself in. The opening scene with her and the drug lord was uncomfortable to watch in the best way possible. Johansson did tremendous work making her fear believable. Its after the transformation that the character gets a little flat. Gone is the relatable girl terrified of her surroundings, now we have a terminator-lite that can do no wrong. She becomes a no personality machine that loses the spark she had earlier in the film (she still looks good though). This works in context of what Besson was attempting but like his decision with making her overpowered, it diminishes the potential entertainment value. In her elevated state she loses her sense of humanity, this not only affects her but the supporting characters as well. By losing touch with reality she views people as lesser than her and basic in turn, thus the characters surrounding her are simply archetypes and don’t really add anything to the film. For example, Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman could have been a rich and complex character, instead he is an exposition machine that only serves as an explanation of all the brain mumbo-jumbo that is going on. Even better yet he explains all of this in a lecture hall. Like Besson’s decision to make Lucy a robot (figuratively speaking) and overpowered, his choice to keep the surrounding cast as one-note as possible makes sense with the overall theme of the film but mainly accomplishes to make audiences care less about the world and its inhabitants.
By the time her transformation is complete things get a little weird, apparently when you unlock 100 percent of your brain capacity you can turn yourself into black goop and a giant super computer, who knew? Although things may get confusing when she reaches er full potential it is here that the movie reaches its visual peak. Lucy jumps around the world instantly taking in historic landmarks, eventually jumping through time to see the dinosaurs and the first woman. The effects and shot selection is simply phenomenal and more than makes up for the fact that audiences may have no idea what is going on. There are also moments where Besson decides to create a mirror of the events Lucy is going through with clips that seemingly came straight from the Discovery channel. While the thought was clever in practice it is a little too on the nose, watching a gazelle get taken down by a leopard while having Lucy slowly walk into the crime bosses den was a tad heavy handed.
From a thematic standpoint the film was phenomenal, I simply didn’t have all that much fun during it. The fact that the marketing of the film made it seem like something it wasn’t also left a sour taste in my mouth. That being said, the psychology of the adventure and the questions it raises about humanity are incredibly enthralling (albeit based on pseudo-science) and are definitely deserving of a mulling over. Like the title character, Lucy becomes more than what it was made out to be. For anyone interested in a psychological, Lucy has you covered. Just don’t expect guns blazing and non-stop adrenaline.
Overall I give this film 7.5/10