Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lucy Review

    Scar Jo's entire performance summed up in one screen cap.

Luc Besson’s mildly entertaining “Lucy” is part B action movie and part high concept science fiction about the potential of the human brain. It stars the sexy doe eyed Scarlett Johansson as the titular character Lucy, a young naïve American in China who gets caught up in some shady underworld dealings.

Without boring you with too much plot detail Lucy gets selected as a drug mule for a new drug (a synthetic version of the drug CPH4 which allows someone to use more than ten percent of their brain) and through certain circumstances a large dose of it gets into her body and before long she’s able to harness up to one hundred percent of her cranium. Johansson—who’s been on a roll acting-wise of late, in films like “Under the Skin” and “Her”—gives a perfectly fine performance, though nothing spectacular.

It ranges from huffy and panicky (at the beginning) to robotic and wide-eyed. Seriously, Johansson does a lot of intense staring, you know, because she’s super smart and focused all the time. She does have moments of greatness, like the moments when she’s trying to cope with her newfound abilities and understand them, while slowly losing her humanness.

And this is where “Lucy” is most intriguing. The screenplay by Besson addresses some extremely interesting themes and concepts related to brainpower and human biology. Basically the main theory he puts forth is—delivered by Morgan Freeman as a brain scientist in the form of a Parisian university lecture—that in our current state as humans, we create obstacles for ourselves, obstacles in the form of fear, pain, anxiety, etc. (pretty much all human emotions and qualities) thereby limiting ourselves and our full potential. Being exposed to this drug has caused Lucy to eliminate those obstacles, which is great on the one hand but on the other she loses her humanness. She can’t feel pain or fear, hence Johansson’s robotic performance. It’s a fascinating concept and the greater concept of using more than ten percent of your brain (and the multiple ways it can be explored on screen) is even more fascinating and I can’t help but feel in the hands of a different director (someone like Christopher Nolan) a great sci fi movie could be made. Would it be a good thing for humanity to use one hundred percent of the brain? Would human life and interaction, as we know it cease to exist?

 All of these questions and more are endlessly fascinating. Unfortunately, as interesting as “Lucy” may be, Besson doesn’t really try to answer them in a very compelling way and instead decides to wrap the picture in a derivative B-movie blanket that smothers the picture’s potential to be truly memorable. Lucy essentially turns into another super gal; you can bet that she acquires fist-fighting skills and eventually gets so smart that she can control other humans and matter with her mind. And of course, since this is about an illegal drug, there are a of generic Chinese gangsters and a forgettable French police officer that aids her. Besson’s movie is a peculiar amalgamation of genres; there’s some “Jason Bourne” in there, along with “The Matrix” and a dash of “ The Tree of Life.” That Terrence Malick art film? Yep, that’s the one.

Not that there aren’t any mild B-movie pleasures to still be found. At eighty-nine minutes “Lucy” doesn’t wear out its welcome and Besson keeps the picture moving at a fast pace. Not only that, Besson has some fun with it, the overall tone switching from intense drama/action to sheer goofiness. The way Lucy casually and apathetically kills people or reads and comprehends hundreds of hours of research and data in a matter of seconds, for example. Consequently, this does prevent the audience from really caring about any of the characters but it also makes the movie fun in a pulpy action movie kind of way. As it is, had the film taken itself completely serious it would have been a bust.

There are other issues I could pick out; namely that Freeman’s acting talent is pretty much wasted in a role that’s there solely to explain the plot and cram the high concept sci fi themes into the movie. “Lucy” is entertaining enough but it’s not all that deep which, considering the subject matter is somewhat of a disappointment. Had Besson been more concerned with the intriguing themes involving brainpower and brain usage instead of action movie tropes, “Lucy” might have been great.


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