You should probably be forewarned – ‘Lucy’ is nothing like the film the marketing would make you believe. It requires one to go in with an open mind…just also be prepared for that mind to be set of fire and stomped into a mush…for better or worse.
The film stars Scarlett Johansson as Lucy, a young American student in Taiwan, who is kidnapped and forced to be a drug mule. The drug she must transport is a new one named CPH4, derived from the chemicals that a mother’s body sends its developing baby, which is surgically placed into her lower abdomen. During the transport she is beaten, causing the bag holding it to puncture, and the drug to be released into her system. The drug begins to change her at a cellular level giving her access to more of her brains potential.
I think it needs to be said that the film is not trying to say we only use 10% of the physical brain (which is the debunked myth) but rather that we only utilize 10% of its potential. Think of it not as an engine only using 10% of its parts, but rather an engine that uses 100% of its parts but only outputs 10% of the power it should and can produce. Then think of the drug, like a more powerful engine fuel, allowing the brain to generate 100% power.
As her knowledge and cerebral capacity grows the film takes some really weird turns as it plays around with the idea of what exactly the human mind could achieve once its full potential is unlocked. Could we control all the cells in our body? Could we control others? Could we feel and manipulate matter and energy? Once you can control both, can you then control time? She begins to be able to see through people, enter their memories, see the energy output of cells, change her hair color, control radio waves…and a whole lot of other crazy stuff. To better understand what is happening to her, and to help pass on the knowledge she is beginning to learn, she sets out to meet a professor who studied and theorized the very changes she is undergoing.
During all this Lucy is also being hunted by the gangsters who want their drug back. This is where the film is arguably at its worst. It leads to some ridiculous shoot outs – and one somewhat out of the blue car chase – which don’t really add much to the overall film. They do create a slight feeling of suspense, but once you get into the scientific and philosophical areas that ‘Lucy’ ventures into, then all the cliché action movie stuff just seems to get in the way.
Luckily none of that really matters as the film’s end approaches and it goes straight past ludicrous speed right into plaid as Lucy, now able to control time, cycles through the history of the earth, right past its creation all the way up to the big bang and beyond. To what end? Perhaps it is to better understand the universe or maybe it is just because she (and Luc Besson) can…there is a lot here that will make you scratch your head. The film definitely tries to be a lot smarter than it is and is built on theories based on theories based on pipe dreams. Still, it never gets any more ridiculous than most superhero-esque films.
The thing that drives it all ( and really keeps it all together) is Scarlet Johansson’s performance. She once again proves to me that she is one of the most interesting actors working right now. She has chosen so many diverse roles in recent years; and as weird as it may sound there are few actors working right now who can express so much through being so completely expressionless in the way she can. She brought more life and emotion to a computer A.I. than most actors did in live action roles last year; and here, as in ‘Under the Skin’, there is quite a lot going on behind her seemingly blank stare.
Her co-star Morgan Freeman sadly does little more than offer exposition. He plays a professor who studies neuroscience and evolution and spends most of the film explaining how and why particular things are happening to Lucy. Freeman seems to be the go to for this sort of role. But that voice really is the only thing that can make this sort of pseudoscience seem convincing.
I have to say it truly is amazing that the film works at all. ‘Lucy’ manages to be just as dumb at times as it is smart. But I was able to overlook the silliness of much of it simply for the fact that the film does attempt to ask some interesting questions, even if they don’t make much sense. From start to finish the film travels down such a fun and exciting tongue in cheek rabbit hole of explosions and trippy visuals and I loved every minute of it. It gets so crazy that at one point Benjamin Franklin’s head literally explodes. It is a mishmash of so many ideas and themes, done with such excitement and ambition, that it is hard to hate any of it. As some critics have mentioned, it really is a Besson action film smashed together with ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and parts of ‘The Tree of Life’. Even better is that ‘Lucy’ has a fast enough pace and short enough running time to never leave you bored. It is entertainment, definitely not at its best, but surely at its purest and I highly recommend it.
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