LUCY Movie Review: Smart Girl, Dumb Movie
Luc Besson’s Lucy makes it clear with the opening shot that this film has aspirations of being something akin to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Featuring an actor wearing an ape costume, Lucy makes very clear that it’ll be tackling the same theme of evolution as Kubrick’s sci-fi classic.
Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, an exchange student in Asia who wakes up with a bag of some mysterious drug in her stomach she’s supposed to deliver. After a bad guy kicks her around, the bag tears, spilling the drug into her system. The drug begins changing Lucy, letting her utilize more than the 10 percent of her brain she normally used. This allows her to do all kinds of nifty tricks, including change the length and color of her hair and listen in on cell phone calls without the use of electronic equipment. Knowing her time is running short and the drug will kill her, she races to Paris so she can share her knowledge with Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).
For some reason, half of Lucy focuses on the title character being chased by the Asian gangsters who put the drugs in her. Can’t they just get more? Did they not learn their lesson after Lucy literally knocks out a room full of thugs with the flick of a finger? Or, can’t Lucy just make them disintegrate into nothing? The answer is she could, but Lucy‘s paltry 90-minute run time would be less than an hour.
For a film that’s supposed to be about someone evolving to use 100 percent of their brain, Besson sure tries to cater to the lowest common denominator. The sequence that introduces Lucy and her greasy boyfriend, who’s trying to convince her to deliver a steel briefcase for him, and the ensuing chaos after he handcuffs her to the case is some of the most exciting film-making Besson has done since The Fifth Element. Except, he completely dumbs down the suspense, inserting shots of a mouse taking cheese from a mouse trap and leopards chasing their next meal to explain what’s really happening. We get it. Lucy is surrounded by scary Asian gangsters. There’s no need for paint-by-numbers.
After this scene, the action comes to a complete standstill, as Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman gives a speech on evolution and the human brain. On top of that, Besson splices in shots of birds, frogs and other assorted creatures procreating…because ANIMALS PROCREATING.
The only thing of interest in Lucy is Johansson, who is more and more coming into her own as a stellar actress. It’s her fear that sells the opening sequence, and her evolution from scared, not-so-smart girl into God-like genius would be a star-making performance, if she weren’t already a star.
Lucy could have been a thoughtful take on evolution, but its reliance on action, and pointless action at that, make the more “intellectual” bits seem more like an exercise in Besson’s European tastes than anything worthwhile. For a film that wants to be the 2001 of action films, Lucy winds up being more like the 2010 of action films.