Movie review: Sketchy science and superpowers in Lucy | Arts

Movie review: Sketchy science and superpowers in Lucy


★ ½
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There’s a clear dividing line between the entertaining parts of Lucy and the tedious ones. It’s when writer-director Luc Besson strays beyond his La Femme Nikita wheelhouse to grasp at some pretentious variation on the grand themes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This philosophical turn is foreshadowed when Lucy, like 2001, shows us a Neanderthal at its outset. By the end, you might suspect that one wrote the screenplay too.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman living in Taiwan where she is cajoled by her boyfriend to deliver a briefcase to some nefarious Korean gangsters and their sadistic boss (Choi Min-sik of Oldboy). She quickly finds herself conscripted as a mule for the attaché’s mysterious contents, a crystalline blue drug that looks like something cooked by Walter White.

When the plastic bag sewn inside Lucy’s abdomen ruptures, the synthetic substance leaches into her bloodstream, causing her convulsing body to scale the walls and hang from the ceiling like a J-horror apparition. More significantly, the chemical changes allow Lucy to access more than the 10 percent of the brain humans supposedly use. As her mental capacity expands exponentially, so do her superhuman abilities, which include rapidly absorbing information, telepathically moving objects, controlling time and space itself and—apparently—perceiving the universe as a collage of cheap-looking special effects.

Once Lucy’s near-omnipotence is established, it deflates the narrative tension and renders the rest of the story—which involves avenging gangsters and a friendly French narc (Amr Waked)—utterly anticlimactic. Lucy’s accidental aptitude also drains any personality from Johansson's performance. It’s worth mentioning that the actress conveyed far more emotion as the disembodied voice of a computer operating system in Her.

At times, Lucy is stylish and engaging, particularly during opening acts that skew closer to Besson’s grittier early films and his laudable penchant for action heroines born from society’s misogyny. However, the rest is mostly as dry as an academic lecture delivered by Morgan Freeman. Indeed, casting Freeman—more specifically, Morgan Freeman’s Voice™—as a professor and renowned brain expert is presumably meant to lend heft to the script’s more hypothetical hokum.

Lucy ultimately attempts to transcend mere entertainment in favor of straight-faced theorizing on the far reaches of reality, the mind and even the universe. But it’s difficult to buy a vision of the fundamentally unknowable expanse of human evolution when it’s rendered by Luc freakin’ Besson.

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