In the beginning of Lucy we are told that humans only utilize less than 10% of their cerebral potential and even at that small amount, we are still the 2nd most developed mammal on Earth (dolphins are the 1st because they use 20% of their brain’s power). If we were to reach 20%, we might develop the ability to control our bodies more efficiently. If we reached 30%, we might find the power to control the bodies of others. And if we reached 40%, we might develop the ability to control lifeless objects. 50% or higher? The possibilities are limitless.
Scarlet Johansson plays the title character, Lucy. Lucy doesn’t make the best decisions. She spends her time partying, has a crappy job, and dates shady guys that seem to have at least one foot in the criminal underworld. When one of these guys “forces” her to deliver an unmarked briefcase to a powerful crime lord named Mr. Jang, Lucy is thrust into a dangerous situation involving a new experimental drug that is ready to hit the street market. Mr. Jang is a ruthless psychopath and after knocking Lucy unconscious, she awakens to find that someone has cut open her stomach and slipped a large bag of this new drug into her small intestines. She is supposed to fly this bag of drugs to another country where it will be sold. But when she arrives at her destination, Lucy mouths off to the wrong thug, who decides to give her a few kicks to her freshly sewn stomach to remind her who’s boss. One of these kicks causes the bag to break open and large quantities of the drug to seep into her body. The effect of the drug is intense and immediate – boosting her cerebral capacity to 20%, the first human to reach such heights. Bestowed with these new brain powers, Lucy sets off to learn about what is happening to her and get revenge on those who put her in this situation all while her mind continues to expand beyond anything that has ever lived on Earth.
Lucy was written and directed by Luc Besson, one of his generation’s most stylish filmmakers. In Lucy, that style is on full display. And though the story is full of several gaping wide plot holes, the action is frenzied and interesting enough to make us ignore most of these problems. We are more intrigued with the new powers that Lucy develops as her brain continues to unlock its full potential. The “reveal” scenes where we see Lucy use these new powers to escape capture or exact revenge are full of great effects work and action choreography. After films like The Professional and La Femme Nikita Besson has certainly proven that he can put together stylish action sequences and he does not fail to live up to those expectations here.
One deficiency in the film worth mentioning are the characters. The characters in Lucy are very one-dimensional. We never really know too much about Lucy except that she is going through this transformation. Besson gives us hints about her background but never fully invests in making us care about her as a person. Mr. Jang, the major villain in the film, is nothing more than a violent cardboard cutout who we’ve seen in countless films before this and never provides much more to the story other than being mindless fodder to Lucy’s newfound powers. The only other major character in the film is Professor Norman, played by Morgan Freeman. The professor is here to guide us through Lucy’s transformation and give us the answers about what is happening to Lucy as it happens. He serves no other purpose in the film except to provide exposition.
Lucy is a solid effort from Luc Besson and his team. He even manages to recruit longtime collaborators Eric Serra (original score) and Thierry Arbogast (cinematography) – both of whom fulfill their duties admirably. So, if you’re looking for an interesting action/adventure film with a dash of science fiction thrown in and full of (sometimes silly) ideas, then Lucy is for you. If you’re looking for a character-driven story that deals with plot more than special effects, then Lucy might not be for you. If you’re just a fan of Luc Besson (as I am), then don’t miss it. It’s his best effort in several years.