Lucy is a visually stunning movie whose biggest problem is not knowing what it actually wants to be. It is too philosophical and deals with themes too big for your generic Luc Besson action movie, and at the same time, despite taking itself way too seriously, it never delves deep enough into those themes to make it a legitimately clever sci-fi epic.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a student in Taiwan whose boyfriend of one week forces her to deliver a suitcase full of drugs to a Korean gangster named Mr. Jang (Choi Mik-sik). She is then knocked out and when she wakes up, she learns that she has been cut open, and a package of a blue powdery drug called CPH4 has been stuffed into her lower abdomen for the purpose of being Mr. Jang’s new drug mule. However, after being kicked in the stomach, the package rips and the drugs leak into her body. These drugs cause a reaction within Lucy which allows her to use more than 10% of her brain’s capacity. This 10% theory is studied and lectured about by Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), and after Lucy reads 6,000-some-odd pages of Norman’s research in under a minute, she contacts him and asks him for his help.
Although I kind of understand where Besson was trying to go with this story, I didn’t like how he got there. I have no problem ignoring the whole 10% of your brain theory, which I can only assume Besson wanted us to do by presenting it like it’s actually a fact, even though most people know it isn’t. I can pretend anything is true just for the sake of a good story. This story, however, wasn’t all that good. As soon as it starts to show a hint of real intelligence and raise some good questions, it becomes overshadowed with absurdity and mindless action.
I had a big problem with Mr. Jang, as well. I love the very talented Choi Min-sik and think he’s a pleasure to watch. He didn’t serve a real purpose to this movie, though. Mr. Jang might’ve been the reason Lucy ended up this way, but then he and his henchmen only became a side story as the movie went on. As Lucy became more powerful, it was clear he would never be able to hurt her. He became nothing more than a simple annoyance after a while, instead of an actual threat. His presence only worked for one reason, and that’s by acting as an example of man’s primitive nature, by showing violence and people killing people over stupid reasons. That’s the only smart reason I can give for why Besson felt the need to have the same old boring shoot-outs and car chases mixed in with a movie that is trying to be more clever than that. The more likely reason is that Besson, a person who has found his niche in action movies, simply just didn’t want to give up the shoot-outs and car chases.
But let’s think about the first reason for a second. As the movie goes on, and Lucy achieves a higher percentage of brain capacity, she loses the need for violence. She goes from shooting a cab driver just for not speaking English, to simply incapacitating a mob of Koreans with her mind, when she could’ve just as easily massacred them. She moves further away from her primitive being and her natural animalistic instincts (there are actual clips of animals doing animal things throughout the whole movie) and transcends into a being that uses her mind for much more than just taking lives.
At the same time, as her brain capacity grows, she starts to lose sight of the things that make her human. She no longer feels pain, fear or love. Having access to all of this knowledge has made her the equivalent of a monotone robot, which could explain why Scarlett Johansson has given such a rigid and lifeless performance. But then you have to ask yourself, if being intellectually superior means sacrificing your humanity, is having access to all this knowledge really all that worth it? The movie bases itself on the idea that humans are wasting their potential, and yet it doesn’t present the opposite as being all that appealing. The opening line of the movie is, “Life was given to us a billion years ago, what have we done with it?” Huh? You mean aside from building cities, discovering technology and improving medicine? Sure, I’d love to move stuff with my mind too, but I wouldn’t want to walk around acting like Robocop in the process.
Lucy had a lot of potential, treading on similar waters of that which movies like Transcendence tried to do as well. It is not easy to tackle big themes like the purpose of life and man’s capacity for living it, while being too distracted by action that serves no real purpose. I’ll give the movie credit for being somewhat entertaining, visually appealing, and for touching on a few clever points. But overall, it seemed like it failed to accomplish what it set out to. Unless, of course, it set out to tell us that the best way to live life to its potential is to become exposed to a large quantity of drugs that will unlock our brains so that we may kick ass, take names and eventually transcend outside of our physical bodies. If that’s the case, then it succeeded, and I apologize for judging it too harshly.