Lucy (2014)

Poster for Lucy

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010) is still Luc Besson’s best movie since The Fifth Element (1997). Under the Skin is still the best Scarlett Johansson science fiction movie out of three I’ve seen this year. Nonetheless, Lucy is perfectly enjoyable for what it is, which is a slightly more high concept and bigger budget instance of the EuropaCorp formula action movie.

The story is about a young woman named Lucy (ScarJo) who is forced to become a mule for an experimental new drug. When her body is infused with the drug, she gains superhuman powers. The drama is driven by the transcendant changes she undergoes in this process, and to a lesser extent by the menace of an Asian drug lord (Choi Min-sik) who is trying to regain the supply of the new drug he has sent off in four different mules. The story of what Lucy becomes is more interesting than this largely rote drug lord story. To help us understand the pseudo-scientific transformation we are witnessing we also have Professor Morgan Freeman on hand to dump exposition on the nature of evolution and human consciousness.

As science fiction I can’t give this very high marks, and I’m not even talking about the lack of scientific rigor, which is not in itself fatal to science fiction. It’s just that the transformation of a human into a superhuman is not an easy story to pull off, and I don’t think Lucy does a particularly good job of it. As a source of cool computer graphics, it’s pretty good, but as with much else about the film (and others by EuropaCorp) even that feels like stuff that’s been borrowed from elsewhere.

Not that there’s anything wrong with making new films from borrowed parts. The only scene that really grated on me was the utterly gratuitous and uninspired car chase, although I also felt that the drug lord story was not fully baked and not well integrated. Might have been more interesting of Choi Min-sik had also taken a dose of the drug and given Lucy someone with equal power to contend — or collaborate — with.

As is often the case with EuropaCorp films (see, for example, Colombiana), one of the most interesting things about Lucy was the international cast that’s obviously intended to attract a global audience. So we get Choi Min-sik as a Korean drug lord in Taiwan for the Asian audience, and we get Julian Rhind-Tutt as his British henchman. We get French, German, and Italian drug mules along with the American ScarJo. Most fascinating of all, although a completely extraneous character, is Amr Waked, who is an Egyptian actor playing a French cop. He’s the one who gets a kiss from ScarJo, too.

I’m not doing much to sell this one, am I? I thought it was fun to watch, but not much to think about. As for the infamous reliance on the “we only use 10% of our brains” factoid, clearly what the film is trying to say is that since 90% of the brain is used to regulate the body’s autonomic systems, then using that 90% for thinking means you lose your body. Am I right? It’s actually kind of Buddhist that way: free your mind, and become one with everything.


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