LUCY (2014)


lucy Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/Director Luc Besson has a track record of mixing stylistic visuals with more traditional action: La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element. This time he tries to mix those components with fantasy, sci-fi and neuroscience. His hope was that Scarlett Johannson in a snug t-shirt and Morgan Freeman as an on screen narrator (guiding us through the maze of info) would sufficiently distract viewers from the international drug-muling mess.  Scarlett’s new found expertise as action hero (thanks to The Avengers) has her cast here in a role that previously would have gone to Anjelina Jolie.
We have all fantasized about expanded brain power, and many films have touched on this: Transcendence (Johnny Depp), The Matrix franchise, and Limitless (Bradley Cooper) to name a few. Omnipotence may not be everyone’s goal, but it sure seems to be difficult to pull off in in movies. This time around, there is a Korean drug syndicate led by Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) who has synthesized a drug that takes the human brain to a new level. To buy into this, you have to accept the premise that humans only use 10% of their brain … a claim long ago disproved.  Still, it’s a movie, so let’s roll with it.
There are some nice moments in the film, but the pieces just don’t fit smoothly together. Circumstances are such that Scarlett finds herself experiencing the effects of the drug – first by dancing on the ceiling ala Lionel Ritchie or Linda Blair (your choice), and then with the most awkward phone call to mom in film history. Soon enough her telekinetic powers are so advanced, she mows down the heavily armed bad guys with a flick of the finger. If that makes no sense to you, you’ll have to follow along with Professor Morgan Freeman’s charts and graphs. His lecture spells out each of the steps that Scarlett will go through and the interconnected scene cuts makes sure all movie goers can keep up … even those who don’t use 10% of their brain.
My biggest complaint is that if a movie about extraordinary intelligence is to be made, then the movie itself should at least be  smart … or witty. What the movie tells us is that expanded brain access allows us to medically diagnose our friends through a hug,  instantly change hair color while strolling through the airport, and create invisible force fields to trap our enemies. We also learn that really smart people drive the wrong way on one-way streets. In Dallas, we typically refer to those people as idiots … or at least horrible drivers. Evidently the joke is on us – those are the enlightened ones!
This movie should have been a lot more fun than it was. A tip of the cap to Mr. Besson for casting Choi Min-sik and Amr Waked (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), and for the global trek from Taipei to Berlin to Paris to NYC … and finally two things rarely seen in the same movie … a dinosaur and a flash drive. It was kinda nice to see the script attempt to make the point that smart people use their minds, while lesser beings resort to violence … though it could have been interesting to see good vs bad while ON this fancy new drug. Although Scarlett’s character remembers the taste of her mother’s milk, I expect the memory of this film will fade quickly.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: a couple of impressive Scarlett action sequences and some Besson visuals are enough to carry you for 90 minutes
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you have difficulty buying Scarlett’s vacuous facial expression as an indication of extraordinary brain power
watch the trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVt32qoyhi0

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5 Responses to LUCY (2014)

  1. Brandi says:

    Hi David. I must say I would have thought your review on “Lucy” would have been a little more favorable. Having seen the previews, I took the “science” with a grain of salt, full-well knowing that Luc Besson likes to bend the rules a bit…and that’s exactly what we got!
    Personally, I think Scarlett did well. Her “vacuous facial expressions” reminding me of Brad Pitt as Death in “Meet Joe Black.” I really don’t see another way to portray to those roles, and I felt their expressions, or lack thereof, actually nail the point home as they are playing a role that’s not really human.
    Regarding your biggest complaint, how could you not think it was smart or witty??? 🙂 While Morgan Freeman could have made a few more quick-witted jokes, his subdued character was actually refreshing. He didn’t steal the spotlight, but his familiar face brought a father figure/security blanket to the screen – making us all believe “it” just a tad bit more.
    I don’t think the movie was telling us everything would be so simple if only we were capable of using our brains’ more. I saw it as “these are some of the endless possibilities that could happen and that look cool on the movie screen!” The movie, while the science was just an after thought, did what all the best movies do – provoke discussion after the credits role. I have really enjoyed the debate outside the theater after seeing this one. The “What if?” questions are always fun to think about and Besson brought us his classic style. What’s not to like?!?!?!

    • Brandi, I’m always glad to hear when someone enjoyed a movie enough to discuss it afterwards. Obviously we had much different reactions. I think Scarlett has proven herself to be believable in action sequences (who would have thought after The Horse Whisperer?), and I even thought she did well with the emotional moments while handcuffed early on. I did not find her to be the problem with the movie. As I stated early on, I’ve always been attracted to the fantasy of tapping into more of our brain capacity, but nothing here struck me as a “what if” in any real sense … only “what if” in the Hollywood sense. With you liking it so much, it kind of makes me want to watch it again … but I think I’m better off just admitting that we disagree. Hope you are enjoying Colorado … and thanks for the comment!

      • Brandi says:

        I’ll definitely be seeing it again – I’ll let you know if my view changes! Colorado has been treating me well! Talk to you soon.

  2. John Raymond (Ray) Peterson says:

    I’m still on the fence about this one. I didn’t enjoy Under the Skin as much as I hope I would so…
    But Morgan Freeman and Luc Besson I like enough to tip the scale; or I might just wait for the Blue-Ray release.

    • Ray, I had really hoped to like this. It does seem there is a vast divide between those who do and those who don’t. I’ll be interested to know which side you land on when you get around to watching it.

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