Lucy (2014)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2/5

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18 thoughts on “Lucy (2014)

  1. Fully agreed. In fact, your first paragraph is basically my second to last. What gets me is that if you cut out the two most needless action scenes, you’ve got a 70-minute movie on your hands. It’s too bad, too – Johansson nailed the performance.

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    • Glad you agree, this movie had an identity crisis. I really wanted to like it, too, as I love Scarlett Johansson and Luc Besson. I’ve seen worse though, and at a 90-minute run time it was watchable at least.

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  2. My boyfriend and I were on the fence about watching this movie. I really want to because I love Scarlett so much, but he felt it was not going to be very developed and well-rounded. It sounds like he was correct, though I don’t think that will stop me from watching it anyway. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    • Opinions on this movie seem to be split pretty evenly. You should definitely see it anyway if you’ve been wanting to, you might end up liking it. There are plenty of people who did, including a friend I went to see it with. Even though I didn’t find it that great, I would still take this movie over yet another rendition of Hercules any day.

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    • It’s disappointing to say the least. I have to say though that Lucy is still better than Besson’s movie The Family which came out last year. That one I really hated.

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  3. You thought it was too philosophical? Save for the ending, I didn’t think it was philosophical enough. But overall, I agree with your assessment – and really enjoyed your point about Lucy losing the need for violence as she unlocked more brain capacity, I hadn’t thought about it like that until reading your review!

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    • Well, too philosophical for a Luc Besson action movie. But yes, not philosophical enough to achieve what it was trying to achieve. I think I worded it strangely. It was stuck somewhere in between trying to be a complex sci-fi and a shoot ’em up action movie. Glad you agree, though!

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  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and kind of understood of where it was going, I am glad they didn’t go all action and moved into deeper psychological theme to it. It had a better feeling to what transcendence had but moved to bigger issues to than just technology. I did like it a lot and was worried that I wasn’t going to.

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    • I’m glad you liked it! I tried to, but I guess it wasn’t my cup of tea, or I was expecting something else. I think it was more enjoyable to watch than Transcendence which flat out bored me at times, although it also had potential. I just wish some of the philosophical aspects were explored more, if it was going in that direction.

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      • Well, I am curious, what direction did you think it was gonna go in? I did enjoy Transcendence as well, I like films that can make people think of technology. how do you think it was gonna go into a philosophical aspect.

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        • Transcendence had a lot of potential but I feel like it just boiled down to a love story and a bunch of people making terrible judgements. The ending bothered me also because I can’t see how cutting all power is a resolution. The world would tumble into chaos. Honestly, I’m not sure what I thought Lucy was going to be. It seemed to start bringing up questions about the meaning of life, and how humans limit themselves to man made numerical units of measure when the only real unit of measure is time, but then it didn’t seem to explore that much. Or if it did, I missed it. Then the ideas about consciousness and self-awareness, who are we? What have we done with our lives? Is the movie trying to tell us that being human and feeling human emotions is wasting our brain’s potential? Passing off that knowledge into a flash drive is supposed to accomplish what exactly? Would they even be able to comprehend that kind of knowledge unless they were exposed to the drug too? There are things that are just totally confusing. And then instead of making sense of it, it would switch to a shoot out or something to distract us from thinking too hard. Or maybe I’m thinking too hard and that’s the problem. I guess I can understand why other people liked it, though.

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          • well, some of the movie was flawed of how she handed Morgan freeman the flash drive of EVERYTHING in the universe and evolution and to be understanding of it. but I think it was a very good attempt on Besson’s part for this film. I do think humans could have a hard time going in thinking it could be just a sci fi movie instead of the final result it turned out to be, I did think that way going into it until I came out of the movie with a different view. Who knows if people could’ve understand the knowledge of what lucy was trying to explain, or maybe they would need to be on the drug to understand it, I think that is the beauty of this film, you come up with theories. To the transcendence part of it, I think people going chaotic of no power would be over dramatic, maybe it would yes but im sure people would get over it, I think its just how society is at a point it is how people would react because its like a monkey see monkey do type of attitude, If the person or audience is going to be upset that no more power is around the world then I will have to agree with the group instead of thinking well, no more power, thank god I don’t need to be attentive to social media. I think it was a fine example of how people could see how much technology is used too much and see if there could be a way to have not control your life.

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            • You bring up some good points. I think Lucy is better enjoyed when you don’t think too much about the small details. This probably explains why the opinions were so split. I understand both the reasons for liking it and disliking it, in the end, it just depends on the person’s taste I suppose.

              Yeah, I think I felt like the characters in Transcendence didn’t think hard enough or react realistically to the thought of the power grid going down. Because it would be much more than just losing Internet. There would be no lights, no heating or air conditioning, no banking, no running water for most people, hospitals could not function, you couldn’t pump gas into your car, most people couldn’t do their jobs, people would die, society would collapse. We have become incredibly dependent on electricity and technology, true, which is why something like that happening would be the equivalent of a worldwide natural disaster. So I thought the resolution was a bit extreme and unrealistic. The movie did bring up a lot of very interesting ideas though.

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              • OK, I guess it would bring up a lot more problems of how if there was no power in the world, but I don’t think people should react so devastated to such outage in the world, im sure we could adapt to those changes in time in case if it ever happened. I know I would be one of those people who could have a problem with it but im sure in time I could adapt to it, maybe. it may have been unrealistic but it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen in those circumstances. in my opinion, I would give the movie another chance, maybe you could have a different outlook on it.

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  5. Good review Justine. It was a pretty crazy movie, but it was one that I found myself having a very good time with. Not to mention it made me pleased to see Besson’s career at least somewhat back on track.

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    • I’ll admit it’s a step up from a lot of his recent work. It didn’t bore me, which is a plus. I think I was maybe expecting something else. Hopefully he stays on track and whatever he makes next (hopefully no more Taken sequels) will be even better.

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