Humans only use 10% of their brain capacity. What would happen if a human somehow went past 10%? This is a question that makes most scientists laugh, because they will claim that the “10 Percent” idea is a myth. Of course it probably isn’t true, but the idea makes for a hell of a movie. I’m not so much talking about Lucy as I am Limitless, the 2011 film by Neil Burger that I found to be fascinating and flat out awesome. It was also one of the movies that made me respect Bradley Cooper, who went on to be in some truly great movies such as Silver Linings Playbook and The Place Beyond the Pines. Lucy isn’t close to what Limitless was, but you know what? It has just enough meat to get the job done.
Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, an American student living with her new boyfriend in Taiwan. After deliviring a package to her boyfriend’s boss against her will, she gets caught up in a drug deal that has the capability to change her life. Bet she didn’t expect that when she woke up in the morning. There’s a new drug called CPH4 and it has the ability to allow the host to access 100% of their brain’s capacity. After having the drugs surgically placed inside her for transportation purposes, she manages to get the crap kicked out of her in a tiny cell. This is where the plot takes off. The drugs leak from the package inside, causing their entry into Lucy’s blood stream. As her brain capacity becomes more and more useful, things start to happen and I wouldn’t dare spoil it because it’s, well, kind of out there.
Luc Besson has made a name for himself, but not in the best of lights. He was the producer and writer of Taken, the slam bang thriller that made Liam Neeson’s career take off once again. But his finest work is The Fifth Element in my humble opinion. Besson’s last directorial effort was The Family, which was a movie I actually enjoyed up until the third act which tried to go for a Goodfellas-like tone after it had already developed itself as a comedy. But it had it’s moments. Lucy certainly has its moments. And there are quite a bit of them. This is a very ambitious movie. And that is surprising. From the trailers, I didn’t expect this to be more than a dumb action flick along the line of Taken. It’s certainly dumb, and there are story elements that are contrived and similar to Limitless, but once the credits rolled, the movie had transformed from something really, really small to something enormous in scope. Take for example, a scene in the opening of the movie. A character is being closed in upon by drug lords, and the scene features clips of something happening in an African plain which serves as a juxtaposition of the characters’ situation. Some interesting things also happen while Morgan Freeman is giving a lecture. Things that made my theater laugh of out awkwardness, but they were interesting nonetheless.
But these are just examples of foreshadowing. Because they happen in the first two acts. The first two acts play as Taken mixed with Limitless. Lots of action and impressive scenes of Scarlett Johansson kicking butt. But it isn’t until the third act that things get crazy. It goes from being action centered to being visually centered. During the final fifteen minutes of this movie I was really reminded of Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life. Yeah, things get crazy. But it was actually beautiful. The visuals were astonishing to look at and I actually did like the way they incorporated themselves into the story.
As Lucy, Scarlett Johansson does what her character demands: look hot and kick butt. And we already knew she could do that. As Black Widow, she is the perfect balance of sleek and sexy, fulfilling every Marvel fanboy’s wet dream. Yeah, I went there. And she isn’t a fan to sci-fi either (see Her or Under the Skin, both really good movies, the latter being a real mind trip). As Lucy, she gives us the best of both worlds. There are times during Besson’s script that lines of dialogue are delivered that are laughably bad (i.e. a line to her mother, “I remember the taste of your milk in my mouth.”) I mean seriously, who told Besson that would be an effective line? But Johansson delivered it and the awkwardness in the theater was through the roof. Lucy isn’t a character you feel for either. You don’t care about her as a person, because she’s practically put into this situation from the start. She’s basically a robot for the most part of this movie, for reasons I won’t spoil. It reminded me of her character in Under the Skin, a far superior film. She’s hot, she kicks butt, and that’s about it. And I’m okay with that. But what is a good sci-fi movie involving scientists without Morgan Freeman? He’s present, and he’s Morgan Freeman, and that’s just about does it.
The movie is riddled with problems, ranging from a script that is so stupid that it’s almost good to a set of bad guys that are the definition of one-dimensional. Some filmmaking tactics had my theater laughing for the wrong reasons, but I found them to be glimpses of hidden artistic ideas. But the end of the movie is far from what I was expecting. I still don’t know if it was a “good ending” or just admirable. But the visuals were undeniably great.
Lucy isn’t Besson’s best work, but it is just good enough. It’s a big, loud, and stupid blockbuster filled with some terrible lines and awful villains. But it has its share of action. As Eric Serra’s thumping score pumps in the background, it’s kind of hard not to get at least somewhat into things. Johansson is sexy as ever and the final few minutes really changes things up. You could say it goes off the rails and becomes laughably stupid, and I wouldn’t argue with you. It’s a stupid movie, but it’s fun.Lucy (2014) 89 mins Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman Writer: Luc Besson Director: Luc Besson