Luc Besson, known mostly for writing action flicks like the French film District B13 and the Liam Neeson-starring Taken, gives us a new take on what he thinks of science fiction. For one, it’s way more fiction than it is science (only 10% of the brain is used? Really?!), regardless of how cool it looks. Lucy, named after the Australopithecus afarensis group of fossils discovered several years ago is explored in a science fiction realm that’s been played around with in movies like Limitless, but unfortunately, the mere fact that it leans heavily on the fictional aspect of the brain’s capability and nothing else leaves audiences craving a bit more than what we are given.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a student in Taiwan, wanting nothing more than to go home and study than be with Richard (Pilou Asbæk), the guy she’s been dating for a week. In a turn of events, Richard ends up sending her in to exchange a package for money with some extremely dangerous men that he’s been tangling with. Suffice it to say that Lucy ends up on the wrong side of a bad deal and without her consent, ends up with a drug in her system that boosts her brain functionality from 10% to 100% over the course of a couple of days.
In swoops Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), who’s character is only there to serve as the exposition for the film, since there’s a lot of information to swallow and digest. And really, who better than him to weave us through the maze that is Lucy. In short, and to try not to fry anyone’s brain, Lucy’s brain functionality and capacity for knowledge and memory increases by the hour. At 20%, she’s able to control her own metabolism (and let’s be honest, this would be an awesome thing to be able to control), at 40%, the ability to control matter and so on. Professor Norman and Lucy’s lives end up colliding when she finds him and attempts to give him all her knowledge before things go awry, because, oh yeah, those guys who put the drug in her are after her. Whoops, forgot about that.
There’s a plethora of information thrown around in Besson’s second attempt at directing sci-fi since 1997’s The Fifth Element. So much so, that the movie is bogged down by it. It feels like it could have been a great documentary (even though all its information about the brain isn’t based in actual fact), but as a narrative tends to be thwarted by its own canon. There are bland “bad guys,” who are just there to initially smuggle the drug. They end up just being used as bad guys number 1, 2, and 3 as Lucy tosses them aside like rag dolls when she begins to exhibit superhuman strength and power.
The story itself feels stinted in the way it’s told. It lacks any real aim save for using its premise as an excuse to make Lucy as bad-ass and superwoman-like as possible. Yes, it does beg the question, what would we be capable of doing if this kind of drug is introduced into our systems? The only problem is that it isn’t really rooted in fact for the fiction to be believable. Besson has a wide imagination, I’ll give him that, but the characters and storyline lack a harmony with its subject matter. It’s almost like watching robots onscreen rather than a great idea come to fruition.
Johansson is feral in her role, and while you feel awful for her in the beginning, after she becomes devoid of most of her emotions, her character becomes disjointed and unfamiliar, which is probably the point, but it’s so fast that you can’t connect with what’s happening to her. Her character could jokingly be called the prequel to Johansson’s computer-based character Samantha in Her, except Samantha felt much more human than Johansson is here.
Morgan Freeman is, of course, his usual welcome self. Unfortunately, his character serves only to explain what’s happening and is similar to the character he played in Transcendence, but to much greater effect, since his role is larger here. Because of all the heavy exposition he gets, his character falls a little flat and unappealing, which is a shame.
Besson always has his hits and misses, with most of his movies generating some buzz but outside of a couple, don’t wrack up a whole lot of attention. With Lucy, the capacity is there, but Besson throws in too much exposition, some brainless action, and a story that doesn’t flow very well and disengages its audience with what can only be called “brain overload.” Which, in hindsight, may be ironic.