Lucy [Review]

Film Info:

  • Genre: Action / Science Fiction
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik
  • Running Time: 89 minutes
  • Release Date: July 25, 2014

This wasn’t meant to be posted at first as I had watched Lucy when I thought the hype train had already gone past. However, I was kind of forced to watch it again by friends and I felt compelled to finish this review. This seems like what happens when a teenager sees Fight Club for the first time, then plays the game Prototype, and writes his own movie script.

Lucy is a movie about a woman who gets used as a mule for transporting a certain drug, but then inadvertently gets a massive dose of it and gains control of her brain’s full capacity. It’s basically a female action version of Limitless, a film that I did like. That’s their only similarity though as they then diverge so drastically from there.

Luc Besson is such a headscratcher (as well as French filmmaking itself at times); Leon: The Professional is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I also quite liked La Femme Nikita. However, he’s now at that point in his filmmaking career where his decisions are rather questionable. You can even compare his current form to David Cage in a way (although David Cage is creepier).

Also, “Lucy” is obviously the female version of “Luc”, so it’s definitely a self-insert. Seems like he is paving the way for the Mary Sue fanfics of the future.

NOTE: As this is a full analysis of the movie, there are quite a few spoilers here. You’ve been warned.

Story

It’s that ten percent of brain myth again, which has already been debunked decades ago. This film’s starting premise is so similar to that of Limitless, from a drug that can activate more of the human brain to the protagonist gaining demigod-like abilities. Having superhuman abilities due to heightened mental abilities is all well and good, and it was for a while early on.

However, the holes started to show, then they became huge chasms growing more and more impossible to fill in. The very first symptom was when Lucy started going through her transformation into her demigod form (It definitely wasn’t even her final form). It would obviously be painful at first with convulsions and fits of agony, but it then gets a bit weird with her sticking to the wall and then floating up the ceiling. That should have been a warning that fuckery was about to go down.

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A Luc Besson movie can never be without some clichéd use of female charm.

There were also quite a few missed opportunities with this though. When the taxi scene came up, I was waiting for Lucy to start speaking in a foreign language to show just how great her learning capacity had become, but it never really happened even when she was absorbing all the information around her from inside the taxi cab. At least in Limitless, we got to hear Bradley Cooper speak in Mandarin (then some of us start taking Tim Ferriss books more seriously).

But what really bothered me was when she got to [spoiler]28% and already having telekinetic abilities[/spoiler]. That was definitely when the movie dropped the ball and things started to get weird in a bad way. Then she starts taking control of electronics, and that’s when I started to figuratively dry heave in my mind. I’m not joking when I say that I had a headache from that point to when the shakedowns, car chases, and self-mutations happened.

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I do want to know what make of headphones those are. They must be really good, just look at his face.

The last third was what Luc Besson called the 2001: A Space Odyssey part of the movie, which is the absolute worst. It’s like the new Cosmos without both Neil deGrasse Tyson and science. There was no real structure other than Lucy unlocking the mysteries of the universe in her head and traveling back to the origins of the universe. When she made contact with the ancestor of humans, I was giving 0% fucks about the whole thing. How could I take it seriously when it’s giving me that?

The ending makes this movie look like a prequel to System Shock or Portal in a way. We shouldn’t be looking forward to a sequel, but it would be great if Luc Besson can get his head together and make a movie with Lucy as a rogue sentient computer or something. Maybe the only way to have this movie actually make sense is to make it a prequel of something better.

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The magic blue fairy dust, like Viagra and Adderall combined.

Cast

This is perhaps the only saving grace of the film for me. I’m quite a Scarlett Johansson fan, and I try to spread word about Choi Min-sik as much as I can. Choi will always be remembered for Oldboy (despite the Hollywood remake), and I like his performances in other films as well. Perhaps that’s why I feel so bad about this movie since they’re in it, and the script still couldn’t be saved.

Even Morgan Freeman wasn’t enough to make it any better since his character is so deep into Lucy’s predicament and wanting to get as much as he and his bunch of nerd stooges can get. Choi Min-sik was the only one who made the last third of the movie somehow palatable, albeit not by much. His character was the only one who didn’t care for whatever was going on and only wanted his supply of drugs back, like any self-respecting drug lord would.

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The two characters that made this remotely bearable don’t even speak English.

Perhaps the best dramatic scene in the whole movie was when Lucy found Mr. Jang being serviced by some ladies, giving him stigmatas through the armrests with knives to keep him still while she extracted information on where the rest of the drugs are. The extraction process itself was quite ridiculous, but Mr. Jang’s pained expression of bottled-up rage made it for me. The Korean mob lieutenant who tried to stand his ground against Lucy was also pretty good, limping along and clutching his tinkle after getting his ass whooped.

Scarlett Johansson seems pretty good at the whole “I stopped feeling” act, which seems to come from her work as Marvel’s Black Widow. Perhaps it’s the only thing that’s truly fascinating in this movie as she is able to go through all that with a straight face and tone, as if she can take it all seriously. Even Morgan Freeman had a hint of incredulity in his performance, and Amr Waked is just dragged along like a cart full of grain after harvest.

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Can’t knock Amr Waked for trying to play the classic French plainclothes cop to a T.

Direction

It’s easy to determine that this was like Luc Besson writing fan fiction, and it had the pacing of one. Of course it would due to being only an hour and a half long, but there was still too much stuff going on in a short period of time. He intended it to “start like Leon: The Professional, become Inception, then end as 2001: A Space Odyssey”, a statement of intent that should’ve been the

When Lucy started taking control of machines and piano-ing computers in typical Hollywood hacker fashion, it had me thinking about playing StarCraft. Maybe I should watch the start of the airplane scene to get motivated for playing that game. It was the scene of Lucy going back home and using her roommate’s laptop to research on and call up Morgan Freeman’s character that really made me stop caring about the movie altogether.

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That is NOT how cellular signals work.

The only way a film like this can ever be seen as anywhere within the spectrum of badness is when it’s experienced first-hand since there’s no way that audiences can judge this book by the cover. It’s all from that fascination with watching characters go through some sort of self-improvement, like following a set of guidelines, an all-encompassing philosophy, a training regimen, or a day-to-day routine that takes them to a level of peak efficiency, then seeing them be all they can be and surpass the level of most other people throughout the movie. They’re in movies like Fight Club, The Transporter, Limitless, and just about every martial arts movie that starts with the protagonist being a wimp and ends with him being a badass.

From Rocky’s iconic training montages, Robert de Niro doing calisthenics and putting his hand over a flaming stove in Taxi Driver, to even Clint Eastwood figuring out how to defeat the rifle-toting Rojo in A Fistful of Dollars, it’s the gradual transformation that makes such movies so memorable. The rest of it is just seeing what the protagonists do with their new knowledge and abilities, both to rise from adversity and to defeat a foe in the final encounter.

But in this movie, Scarlett Johansson gets hit in the gut and absorbs some blue fairy dust through her bloodstream to become a hybrid of Lady Shiva from DC and later Jean Grey from Marvel. She just gets a big dose of brain steroids to undergo that transformation, like Bradley Cooper did in Limitless. But while Limitless kept it within the boundaries of human possibility, this movie took that power fantasy way too far with ridiculous results and utterly annihilates suspension of disbelief.

Even if this movie wasn’t to be taken seriously anyway, Luc Besson surely didn’t make that obvious enough without some hairsplitting in part of audiences who had to pay good money to watch this. (Lucy and Alex Mercer from Prototype have a lot in common.)

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No, your only rightful place is in HBO past midnight.

Final Score

Lucy
3 out of 10
Pros
  • Attractive (pseudo-scientific) premise
  • Morgan Freeman and Choi Min-sik are in it
  • Scarlett Johansson did well enough
  • Mercifully short
Cons
  • Similar basic premise to Limitless
  • Drops the ball abruptly
  • Hamfisted execution
  • Paced like bad fan fiction
  • Cast talent is wasted
  • Unsatisfying open-ended conclusion
Summary

Watching this both times literally gave me headaches, no exaggeration. This movie is quite a case of ball-dropping; it starts well and then stumbles over itself, sprains its ankle, fractures its skull, and then contracts herpes from a dodgy hospital bed. It had a great premise that held so much potential (albeit annoying for being unscientific), but this script loses control of it quickly.


If you want to watch a good movie with Scarlett Johansson as lead, watch Under the Skin (I'll hopefully post a review of it soon).

For more information on the website’s standardized review system, you may read about it [here].

You may also look up my preferences in film [here] for reference.



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