I don’t love Lucy
Apparently if humans could use 100% of their brain’s capacity, they would be able to shoot lasers from their mouths, make super computers grow out of nothing, travel through time, and do almost anything else physically imaginable. This doesn’t seem very likely to actually happen, but in the parameters of Luc Besson’s Lucy, it’s the entire payoff.
The action film is built around logistics as likely misconstrued as this, which would have been fine if these concepts had at all been backed up or even explained in the first place. Instead, the audience is bombarded with more questions than special effects as Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy displays an endless arsenal of power and knowledge, with no context on which to place it. This dehumanizes her as a character, which is a problem when the entire film depends on the audience liking her. Johansson luckily pulls through, redeeming the hole-strewn script with a strong performance.
Johansson’s Lucy is tricked into an international drug ring led by Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) who turns her into a test subject by inserting a bag of CPH4, a newly synthetic drug that vastly enhances the brain’s functionality, inside her stomach. When the bag tears the drug enters her system, she is granted with the aforementioned endless array of inhumane powers, which also includes time travel and receiving computer-coded information out of thin air. Lucy uses these powers to escape and contact Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), who is studying the possibilities of a human who can use their brain’s full capacity.
Slowly losing her humanity while expanding beyond her species’ limitations (Johansson’s performance naturally trickles from bubbly to robotic across the story), Lucy begins to seek revenge on the drug ring. However, her powers come with a drawback; she must continue consuming the drug, or else her body will be stretched beyond capacity and slowly dissolve. Maybe this is the story thread the film should have pursued. Instead, it shoves this concept to the back after one quick yet beautiful scene in favor of showcasing more illogical superpowers.
Just like Lucy herself, the film seems to be juggling more than it can handle. Ideas are introduced and tossed aside rapidly, preferring variety over depth as per Besson’s direction. Action scenes are mostly used to showcase a new power Lucy just developed, enjoyably enough, while the standard gun fights and car chases stray from moderately entertaining to mundane.
A strong premise can only carry a film’s story so far, and while Besson’s attention span is comparable to that of a sugar-rushed toddler, Johansson’s rounded, omnipresent performance helps give the film the rise-and-fall arc it needs. With a less competent actress, the film would have been a directionless jumble of superpower and suspension of disbelief. With her, the film is a shallow, yet sometimes thought provoking action, with a protagonist who’s still likeable despite all her inhumanities.