Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic
The movie landscape is littered with stories that try to tap into the popular theme of the human potential, usually centered around the myth that we as evolved beings only use about 10 percent of our brain (an incorrect theory, by the by), with many untapped abilities remaining locked away, hindering any intellectual or evolutionary progress.
You’ve seen examples of this in decades past: Flowers for Algernon, Powder, The Lawnmower Man, Phenomenon, Limitless, Transcendence, even the Eugenics program on Star Trek…the list goes on.
Now, acclaimed filmmaker Luc Besson makes a return to the director’s chair after several smaller projects, offering up Scarlett Johansson as an unwilling drug mule suddenly empowered with amazing abilities when the experimental product inside her ruptures and grants her full access to her brain.
Sadly, the film spends too much time showcasing these amazing abilities rather than explore them in the context of any worthwhile plot, resulting in a pretty drab semi-philosophical treatise on the future of mankind and its place in the known universe.
The promotional material for the release of this “action” film uses a promising and catchy, albeit flawed tagline: “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%.”
Fair enough, sufficient to pique anyone’s interest, especially with a teaser trailer which includes the range of Lucy’s abilities extending to mind control, telekinesis, teleportation, mental time travel and molecular manipulation. If so, to what end?
As fascinating as the premise appears to be, not even the coolest concept in the world amounts to a cluster of synapses if there isn’t a story to support it. Despite the guarantee of an impressive tale of dangerous powers and the exploration of our full potential, none of it matters when paired with a lousy subplot about an innocent American woman turned god-like neo-human, with Asian organized crime tracking her down in order to retrieve the magic drug which changed her in the first place. No real valid reason is given for the baddies to possess these goods in the first place, but overall it matters little when we’re too busy watching ScarJo levitating her enemies with her mind.
I’ll give credit to Johansson for playing Lucy as straight-faced as possible, demonstrating her character’s ability to suppress pain and emotion as needed in order to fully harness her gifts and understand the universe.
Alas, such mental control saps her character’s ability to emote, resulting in a quasi-robotic delivery of her lines after a while, draining any energy out of a scene. All we’re left with is an attractive walking showcase of potential human superpowers, as if the X-Men were selling their powers to the highest bidder at a sales convention.
Morgan Freeman makes yet another token appearance as the Voice of Experience, in the same exact way he did earlier this year against Johnny Depp in Transcendence, another film about human potential gone rogue when Depp becomes an omnipotent online entity able to control the world.
When the veteran actor isn’t busy playing sounding board to Batman or debunking sleight-of-hand con men (re: Now You See Me), he’s always a reliable name to have on the poster, adding credibility to the shakiest of projects.
Here, Freeman plays a scientist on the lecture circuit, discussing the brain’s full potential, were one able to access more than the reported tenth it normally uses on a day to day basis. Other than providing unnecessary exposition, Freeman’s character only serves as a focal point for Lucy to relate to on a basic, “normal” human level.
As a whole, Lucy makes for a pretty visually stunning super-hero type film, albeit one more aimed towards vengeance and retribution rather than a logical goal towards the improvement of the human condition.
With a clever editing style that feels like a music video rather than a coherent piece of fiction, Lucy may very well be the most successfully constructed piece of obsolete marketing for the human race. Pity there’s so little of it for us to care about.
2 out of 5