I feel compelled to tell you that Lucy is one of those films where the trailer lies to you. If you saw the trailer, you’d think it was a revenge action flick with a superheroesque twist. Unfortunately, it’s not. The sad fact is you’ll be done with 90% of the scenes in the trailer by the time you hit the 30 minute mark in the movie.
So, if it’s not the movie the trailer presents, what movie is it? Well, I described it in the preview on the front page that it was like eating a greasy $2 hamburger with a $500 bottle of wine, and then later finding out that both were laced with LSD. By that I mean that it is a extremely well-crafted yet cheesy action film that wants to explore some extremely esoteric concepts ranging from evolution to what happens when you die, from emotions holding us back from our true potential to time being the only thing that truly exists in the universe.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) meets her newish boyfriend in front of to a fancy Taiwan hotel. The boyfriend has a favor to ask of Lucy. He needs Lucy to go inside the hotel and deliver a briefcase to a Mr. Jang (Min-Sik Choi). However, there is something about her boyfriend’s desperate insistence that sounds warning bells in her. Unfortunately, she has no choice but to deliver the package when her boyfriend handcuffs it to her.
It turns out that her bad feeling about her boyfriend was right. Mr. Jang is a brutal drug kingpin and the briefcase contains a man-made drug that is a version of the hormone that pregnant mothers give their fetus to give them the energy to grow. The boyfriend was supposed to be a mule to sneak the drugs into Europe in his abdomen, and Jang is more than happy to use Lucy as a substitute.
However, the drugs put inside Lucy never reach Europe. The bag opens inside her before she gets there and a massive dose the drug releases into her system. A small dose is enough to induce a giddy euphoria. The dose Lucy gets expands her brain capacity, bringing new powers with every 10% of her brain that is opened up. It also brings the realization that her death is imminent, so she begins a quest to find the rest of the drugs in order to prolong her life so she can make the best use of her powers.
There’s a lot to like about this film. There’s also a lot to love about this film. It is beautifully shot and constructed. I loved the way how certain plot points are presented, especially the way the events of Lucy’s abduction is seen through her eyes (For example, pre-doping Lucy is freaked out when she sees a pair of dead bodies in a room, neither she nor us are given the circumstances of their death). And the special effects are out of this world, literally and figuratively.
The acting is great. Scarlet Johansson does an excellent job, both before and after her transformation. In fact, her spirited and emotional performance at the beginning of the film really sells the tragedy as she becomes more cerebral and robotic as her brain power expands. Morgan Freeman is often complemented as being so good of an actor that he can read a phone book and make it sound interesting. That’s proven here as most of his dialogue is exposition in the form of scientific mambo-jumbo. He never loses the audience’s interest.
One of the things I was most impressed with was the way Lucy, unlike The Matrix, doesn’t shy away from the godlike powers it gives it’s main character. Yes, the Wachowskis probably would not have been able to make The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions if they didn’t dial back on the powers they gave Neo in the first movie, but Luc Besson managed to have his protagonist be powerful enough to defeat her enemies by simply putting them to sleep yet still made the threats against her seem real. He proved that you can have an omnipotent character that holds the audience’s interest without backsliding the character’s development.
And you have to admire any film, especially an action film, that dares address these lofty concepts. Granted, they use some dodgy science as a springboard for this examination, and for some a lot of the information provided might seem like eavesdropping on a cocktail party conversation between two people with dual PHD’s in philosophy and molecular biology. But a film that expects you to think is a good thing.
However, in this case, it is also a bad thing, because the film also wants to be a cheesy action flick too, and the willing suspension of disbelief that genre needs to survive cannot exist in a movie that requires this much thought. In other words, if you’re asking us to contemplate the true meaning of life, don’t expect us to let you slide when you decide to have a French police captain start an international drug bust that goes down all three different European countries at the same time with no red tape of bureaucracy (And don’t get me started on how Lucy’s three other drug mule partners could arrive in Berlin, Rome and Paris at not only at THE EXACT SAME TIME but also after Lucy, WHO FLEW TO PARIS HOURS AFTER THE OTHER MULES SUPPOSEDLY LEFT).
Lucy is too well made and too well acted for me to give it a completely negative review, but it’s flaws and plot holes (not to mention the bait and switchthe trailer turned out to be) make it impossible to complete recommend it either. It was a film that wanted to be a sci-fi/action popcorn flick and a think piece at the same time, and failed to strike the right balance. However, if you’re the more forgiving type, you might enjoy the film more than I did.