Lucy is a pretty ambitious girl. Granted, her ambition only comes after massive quantities of a powerful superdrug allow her the use of previously uncharted regions of her brain, which in turn morphs her not only into the smartest kid in school but into the most powerful being in the history of the universe. Her quest to use 100% of her brain’s capacity and thus unlock the secrets of life sends her on a mission around the globe – and beyond.
So that’s the plot of Lucy, but don’t worry if it’s still a little unclear – Morgan Freeman is here to explain everything with some hand-holding exposition throughout the first acts of the movie. Still iffy? Never fear. A feature-length biology lesson ensues, emphasis heavy on the first part of “science-fiction” while largely disregarding the second part.
I’ll say that Lucy is a hell of a lot better than the trailers make it look. There’s a good filmmaker somewhere inside Luc Besson and Lucy is a more grounded, “realistic” kind of sci-fi flick than the gonzo Fifth Element, which of course isn’t saying very much about realism. The believability factor hovers around 5% when Lucy herself crosses 20% brain capacity, but someone in the peanut gallery at the Morgan Freeman lecture already said that we’re just simply hypothesizing here, so roll with it. The hypothesizing has fun parts, and Besson has a nearly-sure hand for long and exciting stretches.
The problems are probably inherent to the story, then. For instance: how can the stakes go higher as the movie progresses if Lucy has more and more control of her world? Okay, she’s dying at an accelerated rate, and okay, there’s a policeman along for the ride in order to highlight the fact that there is danger here. But a mid-film car chase (which happens to be pretty thrilling and inventive as far as car chases go) still lacks a major something in the believability department. There is no chance that Lucy will lose control of the car, and thus instead of engaging in the chase and flinching every time the car veers narrowly we’re really just waiting for the chase to end.
We also don’t see enough (or any at all) of the actual Lucy, i.e. the pre-superhuman person, i.e. the character that we could actually feel for. Zombie computer-brain Lucy, we got. Johansson pretty much nails the role, but it would have been nice to have something a little more relatable to latch on to at the very beginning of the film.
And what else is there to say? The stakes, again, are basement-low by the ersatz climax of Lucy. Choi Min-sik, South Korean actor known primarily for Oldboy, is in the villain role here and is his usual spellbinding self – but unless you’re a massive fan of his (like I am) or a Luc Besson completist (those exist?) or a bored teen looking for a Transcendence-level sci-fi flick, Lucy just doesn’t have a whole lot else to say. That may be a bit harsh, but given the galaxy-sized ambition of both Lucy the film and of Lucy herself, there’s certainly a whole lot of territory left to conquer.