To say that Lucy isn’t one of the most bizarre films of the year would be a huge understatement in every sense of the word. It reaches such lunacy that the only viable response is one left in aghast. Luc Besson being a master of the genre and strong female characters concocts a rather unusual heroine who strives to reach immortality upon all things. Along the way, it presents theological and philosophical questions amid all the shoot outs, leaving you wondering which way for your brain to go. But it is no easy task as it becomes too full of its illogical premise. Despite all that, it’s a rather unusual and different ride that I can’t fault Besson for driving.
Let’s just get this out of the way, the theory of humans only using 10% of their brain is 100% false and is a major shock that a myth like that perpetuated through pop culture and society for so long. All of the brain is useful as nothing gets wasted. Let’s move on shall we. Knowing how stupid the idea is, it was presented in such a way that made it really interesting. I wasn’t expecting even half of what I saw, even less that I liked what was said. The titular Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) starts off as a regular student studying in Taipei, Taiwan who is made to deliver a package to a gangster for her reluctant boyfriend. But things quickly get out of hand as the package is revealed to be a new super drug that increases brain function capacity. Face to face with the gangster Jang (Choi Min-sik), Lucy is forced to be a mule for the new drug. Along with other mules that are to be delivered all over Europe, she is quickly knocked out and has the drugs sewn in her abdomen. Upon awaking, she is held captive and beaten because she rejects the advances of her captors. The bag of drugs bursts open as the contents spill into her body allowing her to have increased brain function activity. She then hopes to defeat her enemies while reaching new heights of unreached intelligence.
Lucy could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the performance of Scarlett Johansson, who adds much emotional depth amid all the craziness. She really makes the role her own, not allowing the wacky premise to deter a good performance. You feel for her when she is scared and frightened in her situation before the drugs were sewn into her and root for her to take down the Asian gangsters with her god like superpowers. One of the best moments from her is when she is talking to her mom, trying to say some meaningful parting words but only talks about things that her mom would not understand. Another sequence is when she appears to be disappearing into dust. The fear shown looked real, showing that a superhuman still has something to dread. She plays a cold, calculating, femme fatale killing machine very well as she has proved as Black Widow in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Lucy is a worthy addition to Besson's catalogue of female heroines. An important researcher on the human brain, Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) is approached by Lucy to assist her. This role felt like it could have been played by any lauded screen veteran. But I think that he was cast so he could narrate what was happening which he does of course. No one casts Freeman without using him as a narrator in at least one scene. The rest of the cast was rather useless except for Choi Min-sik who played a good gangster. He provided the right amount of menace for an antagonist. Amid an English speaking cast and illogical plot, he went above and beyond to stand out while waiting for him to end up dead.
Comparisons were made to Limitless but I would have to disagree. It fits more in the line of Akira and The Watchmen. Tetsuo and Dr. Jonathan "Jon" Osterman who would later become Dr. Manhattan are both undeserved victims who survive despite horrible circumstances laid before them. Just as it was exciting to see where those characters would go in their growing transformation, it was the same for Lucy. It is not without its plot holes of course. One glaring one in the middle didn’t make much sense and makes you wonder how anyone could be so stupid about something even though they know how serious the situation is. But when watching a movie like this, one is required to shut off the brain and just let oneself go amid the chaos. When you see someone control matter, it doesn’t really matter how illogical other things are.
Director Luc Besson is a certified legend who has created some of the most iconic characters and action sequences ever. It has been a long while since he has made an effective action film. The Family had some good performances but felt like it was holding back a bit. One of the highlights unsurprisingly from that was Dianna Agron as Belle Manzoni, another strong female character who also happens to be a psychopath. No matter what the film, he will always find a strong female character. While Lucy is no Mathilda, Leeloo or Nikita she is a very worthy addition alongside those women. Besson packs a lot in here that doesn’t seem that it would mesh well at all, but I can’t blame him for trying. It seemed like he was trying to outdo himself in every scene just to see how far he could go. The drama that drove his previous efforts between the action isn’t here much at all. At times it felt bland but then it goes into overdrive and you’ve lost your bearings. Besson works best in a more logical, human setting even though the ideas here are interesting.
The themes shown here make it more intriguing than it ever had any right to be. The idea of superior human intelligence making one unrelatable to those who aren’t is something that has been shown before. One gets to such a high plain that even being around others is a chore. Lucy becomes more callous and direct here as her brain gets bigger which was shown really well. She becomes needlessly violent where she doesn’t need to be, ignoring human life for her own gain. One scene shows how detracted she has become by revealing a horrible past incident to another to prove her power. It would have been easier to tell him what he had for breakfast that morning, but she shows a past trauma to an unsuspecting person. It goes further by asking how much information can one person handle, shattering what preconceptions they may have had. The infinite knowledge of all things is often met with strong and bitter resistance. The sequences where the chemical changes in Lucy are happening were expertly well done. At one time there was a 2001 type sequence full of amazing sights and colors that are exceptionally eye grabbing.
Lucy will not win many fans over as it is far too polarizing in many ways. Initially I was reluctant to see such a ridiculous plot but relented when I read how crazy it is. At times it tries too hard, overloading you with narrative but other times it asks genuine questions about the mysteries of the universe. It is no return to form for Besson, but amid a trove of stupid summer movies it tries to say and do something different. If one is able to let themselves go and watch a somewhat intelligible, bizarre film not based on facts but rather theologies than you might be able to stomach its outwardly premise. It’s hard to say who would enjoy it, but the ideas presented here should be more than enough for someone to think over and get something out of it. Three god like superpowers out of five.