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Lucy (Review)

 

"The important thing to note is that, whatever you think of the film, it’s apparent that it’s the exact movie writer-director Besson set out to make.  He knows how ridiculous it is and he knows how ridiculous you will think it is."

 

 

by Jason Howard

When reluctant drug mule Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally ingests an exorbitant amount of the product she’s being forced to deliver, she begins evolving at an incredible rate and develops physical and mental powers beyond that of any other human.  With the help of a scientist (Morgan Freeman) who specializes in both the study of the human brain and having a silky smooth voice, she attempts to figure out exactly what is happening to her, while also taking down the syndicate who put her in this mess to begin with.

Okay, let’s just get it out of the way right now – yes, we all know the whole “humans only use 10% of their brain” concept that the majority of this movie is based around is a myth and a fallacy.  You can stop saying it.  You weren't the first to say it, and you’re not particularly clever for having said it.  Much like, 15 years ago, when you were also not the first person to let everyone know that nothing in that Alanis Morissette song was actually ironic, despite your constant attempts to do so.

Lucy 
Written & Directed by Luc Besson
Cast Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Release Date 25 July 2014
Jason's Grade: B

Some movies that base themselves in “science fiction” put themselves in a position to also have to adhere somewhat to “science fact” because of the realistic vibe they are attempting. Lucy is simply not one of those films. In order to enjoy a movie like this, you don’t have to accept that the events contained within are realistic in our world, but rather that they make some sense in the reality of the world that is created within the film itself. Does Lucy do that? Of course not – this is a Luc Besson movie, after all. Not a lick of it makes any sense whatsoever, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun. Most films, when dissected, would have a hard time being believable, but it seems that it only becomes an issue when the opportunity to appear slightly smarter than the average bear presents itself. Otherwise, we tend to just love it, hate it, or feel indifferent about it based upon what’s presented onscreen. You should do the same here.

The important thing to note is that, whatever you think of the film, it’s apparent that it’s the exact movie writer-director Besson set out to make.  It’s obvious that he is fully aware of how ridiculous the movie is and it also appears that he’s in on the fact that you are going to find it ridiculous as well.  In fact, it would seem that he’s absolutely counting on it.

He imbibes the film with a rather healthy dose of humor, much of which is directly derived from and decidedly pointed at how outlandish everything is.  The first act finds stalwart scientist Morgan Freeman removed from the central story as he gives a university lecture on the brain’s capacity.  The juxtaposition of the questions posed and answered with the beginning of Lucy’s plight and even some nature footage makes for a funny and somewhat unique intro to the film.  In fact, for a while, I believed that this structure might have remained throughout.  It would have been a bit of a risk and may have pushed it too far into the odd, but it sure would have been a welcome try.  Then again, we also get a silly (but great) scene in which our Lucy meets the world's first Lucy, so I don't believe odd was a major concern.

Besson is also smart enough to let Lucy develop her abilities gradually as the film progresses.  An on-screen graphic cheekily keeps the audience abreast of what brain percentage she is currently at.  The trailers might lead one to believe that she wakes up one day as a full-blown superhuman, but it’s not quite that fast.  You might question how quickly she masters these newfound skills, and certainly the means by which she obtains them make no sense, but, fortunately, again – it doesn't matter, and the film only makes a half-hearted attempt to explain how it’s possible.  The very lean runtime of only 90 -minutes has no room for such trivialities and you won’t miss them here.  If this had been an origin story for a new superhero (which, in a lot of ways, it's not that far off from), then maybe we’d spend a bit more time with the why’s and how’s.  But, as it stands, it would be unnecessary here.

Nothing’s perfect, of course.  Scarlett Johansson is quite good as Lucy in the early stages, but the more she evolves into a superbeing, the more it seems that the only acting direction she was given is to stare blankly while cocking her head slightly to one side.  Even worse, Morgan Freeman is pretty wasted in a role that actually becomes decreasingly interesting as the film rolls on.  Min-sik Choi as the head of the bad guys that put Lucy into this situation, and Amr Waked as a cop forced to help her get out of it, fare the best, acting-wise, but the performances are never the spotlight. The effects, choreography, cinematography, and music all do the heavy lifting here, and the further the script moves into cheesy territory, the more those elements are ramped up for the ride.

JASON’S FINAL THOUGHTS:

Yes, I am fully aware that I, myself, have been guilty of calling out a movie as not being particularly good when the facts they present within don’t quite check out. But, each and every film must be judged on its own merits and its own set of guidelines, and sometimes the absolutely ridiculous works in their favor.  Lucy is one of those instances.  I’m sure that many will continue to rant about how Besson is just continuing to perpetuate the myth that humans only use 10% of their brains (probably based on the trailers alone, as opposed to seeing the film before judging it), but the perpetuation would really only hold water if Besson was presenting this film as some sort of fact or diatribe or trying to make a point of some kind.

The reality is that the whole brain thing is really only used here as an entry point to watch Scarlett Johansson kick a whole lot of ass and as a fun little countdown timer throughout the runtime.  Sure, any element of a movie is open for complete and total scrutiny, but if your insistence on remaining uppity is held in higher personal regard than your ability to just relax and go along for a fun ride (on certain films), then I feel bad for you.  You don’t have to like it (many won’t), but it's usually only fair to go in with a set of standards that match the intentions of the film.  It’s no masterpiece, but it is definitely a blast if you give it a chance to be.  I know that saying “turn off your brain” for a movie is a cop-out, but in this instance, at least dial it back to 10%...

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