Lucy‘s director, Luc Besson, is the man behind The Fifth Element, one of the first films I ever loved. That’s a big reason why I had such enormous expectations going into Lucy, a sci-fi tale about a woman who supposedly taps into 100% of her brain (as opposed to us mere mortals who can merely access 10%). To put it lightly, I guess I should start controlling my expectations.
Looking past the above myth, Lucy is a diverting enough film with an extremely short running time. But it’s also a film that suffers from an identity crisis. Is it an action movie? Or a deep philosophical look at humanity and existence? The film’s marketing campaign undoubtedly chose to advertise the easier route (guns, car chases and telekinetic powers), but I felt like I spent a whole lot more time staring at cryptic images and listening to redundant scientific babble. I won’t spoil the ending, but Lucy‘s resolution feels like an anticlimax, and I left the theater amused but far from impressed.
Scarlett Johansson does what she can with the part, and she’s certainly believable as an action heroine (thank you Black Widow), but as Lucy grows colder by the minute, so does Johansson’s performance. Perhaps it’s a necessary move, but it’s not very engaging to watch. Scarlett’s detached demeanor basically means you forge zero emotional investment in her plight, and with nothing to latch on to, the film ends up feeling like an afterthought. The rest of the cast fares fine, although it’s a pity Morgan Freeman doesn’t get much to do. He’s basically playing yet another wise middle-aged guru, and I do wish the script tried to throw in a fresh twist where his character is concerned.
On the bright side, the film is a definite visual delight. The far-too-few action scenes are well staged, with a dynamic and kinetic car chase serving as a surefire highlight. Lucy does go a bit overboard with the CGI at the end, but the sequences fit the plot and are well-realized. Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast knows how to frame a shot, and he keeps things coherent and easy to follow (an all-too-rare trait nowadays).
With a messy script, it’s unfortunate Lucy doesn’t end up being particularly memorable. The film starts out with a whole lot of promise, but eventually stumbles in its attempts at being both a high-octane thrill ride and a complex existential piece. Ironic how something striving to be so intelligent can end up looking so silly and dumb.