Movie Review – Lucy (2014)

Director: Luc Besson

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Analeigh Tipton

After getting forced into delivering a case to a businessman, Lucy (Johansson) finds herself being used as a drug mule. While she’s being held in a small cell she suffers from a beating and the drugs get released into her system, causing her *takes a deep breath* use of her brain capacity to increase rapidly *facepalms*. She’s able to manipulate matter and energy waves and has other abilities, but Mr. Chang (Choi) is still after her.

Going into this I was ready to hate it. The trailer seemed to be filled with illogical abilities and the whole, ‘we only use 10%’ of our brains’ statement is a myth that really needs to be put to rest as it’s overused enough as it is. But I actually ended up enjoying it, although it is a deeply flawed film, so there’s a fair bit to talk about.

Let’s start with the central premise – that Lucy can access more of her brain and becomes this super-powerful being. It does require a huge suspension of disbelief and there were a lot of points during the film that had me shaking my head, but I figure in my years of reading comic books and watching Star Trek I’ve suspended my belief many times so I decided to just go with them film. However, it does spend an inordinate amount of time hammering home the point of the brain’s capacity and the potential. It would have been better had they not spent so much time repeating what’s happening because it just reinforces the stupidity and illogical nature of it all. It’s almost as if the film doesn’t want you to suspend your disbelief.

Morgan Freeman’s character is basically Professor Exposition and he has no other function than to talk about the technical terms, so this feels forced and it just feels like the movie is trying too hard to put forward its premise, almost as if it knows that it’s ridiculous and it’s trying to say, ‘no really, it could actually happen like this! Honestly!’. It should have spent more time focusing on the transformation of Lucy as she went beyond humanity. That would have been far more interesting, and as it is the transformation happens too quickly. Basically, almost as soon as the drugs take effect she begins to lose her humanity and since we’ve only just been introduced to her it doesn’t have as much dramatic impact as it would have had it been slowly drawn out. It also means that the rest of the increase in capacity doesn’t really matter, as we don’t see a great change in her demeanour or character.

The visual effects are mostly stunning with a few interesting things that don’t quite work. At the beginning the director inserts shots of animals, some of these worked but most didn’t, for example the ones that showed prey being hunted. Yes, we get it, Lucy is the prey. It wasn’t something that needed to be spelled out so explicitly. There were lots of space vistas, which I always love, and one really gruesome scene in which Lucy almost, well, melts. However, it does miss the mark in other ways. At one point Lucy is faced with a row of bad guys and all she does is levitate them to the ceiling. I thought, given her abilities, that there could have been a more interesting way to deal with them, like have them fight each other or something.

I quite like that this film is fast-paced, but I do think it spends too long on explaining the origin and this doesn’t leave room to explore the extent of her abilities properly.

There are also a couple of flaws. Just after Lucy develops her abilities she gets a taxi and ends up shooting a guy in the leg to force the other taxi driver to take her. But as they drive off there’s a subtitle of the guy screaming, ‘My leg!’, to show that she didn’t kill him and keep the morality of the hero intact. This was odd, because we hadn’t seen any subtitles in the film previous to that, and shortly after she kills a patient on an operating table, citing the fact that he has a brain tumour so wouldn’t have survived anyway, so it seems odd that they would make the point of emphasising that she only shot the taxi driver in the leg. There’s also a point where a certain character is not killed just so they can show up later in the film, and there’s no reason given for him not to be killed.

On a purely logical level the film is deeply flawed. Yet there are some philosophical threads that I actually really enjoyed. There are a few issues raised, such as the purpose of life, and there’s a point made that in stable climates cells focus on reproduction, but in dangerous climates they focus on passing on knowledge, so it raises the issue of which one we tend to favour. It also deals with the power of a God, and whether humans are ready for that and what the responsibility is when we do get that power (it’s obviously going to be a great one). I also liked the point that humans tend to impose a measurement on the universe that brings it down to our level of understanding, rather than trying to break through our own perceptions and see the true nature of the universe. Some of the symbolism is nice too, like towards the end there’s a big shoot-out while Lucy is in another room, and this alludes to how humanity often loses itself in wars when great discoveries are so close to us. One quote I loved was, ‘Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge’.

Scarlett Johansson was very good too, and helped sell the film to me. I liked her portrayal and she is definitely the best thing about it. Most of the action is good. I especially liked the scene when the drugs get released into her body, it’s visceral and painful and Johansson sells it perfectly.

Overall though it is a flawed film. I don’t think some things were explored as fully as they could be and there were many missteps in the script. But I did enjoy it and I think it’s going to be a film that people either enjoy or hate with a passion. If you go in and think about it logically it isn’t going to please you, but if you’re like me and you ponder the philosophical issues it raises then you might just like it. It’s certainly not one that I’m going to definitely recommend because there are many problems with the story, but I like that it aspires to be something different and tries to introduce a bit of a viewpoint that’s different from the usual, ‘humanity is sacred’. In Lucy humans are shown to be a part of the ecosystem, equal with other animals and just basically another rung on the ladder of evolution, as in we’re not as special as we may think we are sometimes. So yes, if you want a straightforward action movie then it’s probably one to avoid, otherwise you might want to think about checking it out.

It also gets bonus points for having a dinosaur.

 

 

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