Sunday, 24 August 2014

Lucy (2014)

Luc Besson wrote and directed a movie back in 2005 called Angel-A. It was pretty damn great. As slick and visually stylish as his other work, with a kickass female character, and one or two interesting ideas embedded in the tale. Nobody watched it, as far as I can tell. Which made it completely unsurprising when Besson went back to his more comfortable stomping ground, producing a number of generic, yet also enjoyable, action movies that fit comfortably in the dumb fun section of any movie collection.

Fast forward almost a decade, ironically enough (considering certain plot elements of this film), and it seems that Besson has tried something different once again. Something that, this time, has managed to find an audience. Whether or not that audience will be there after a strong opening remains to be seen. Lucy has been marketed to many as a sci-fi action flick when it attempts to be something more interesting and thought-provoking than that. Sadly, it's also pretty bad. In fact, there are many times when it's just downright laughable.

Scarlett Johansson is the titular character, a woman who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She ends up being put to sleep, and wakes up to discover that she's had a bag of drugs placed inside her body - making her a perfect mule. But when this bag is ruptured, the drugs enter Lucy's system and start to change her. Instead of only using 10% of her brain (yes, yes, it's that old chestnut), she starts to use more and more, becoming more aware and powerful with each stage of ultrafast evolution. Knowing what this is all leading up to, she tries to track down Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), and also the other drug mules, all now carrying a drug that she may well need to survive. A cop (Amr Waked) tries to apprehend her, but soon realises that he doesn't stand much chance, so ends up helping her instead.

Mining similar ground to Limitless, but going off on a very different tangent, Lucy stumbles from the very beginning, then starts to fall down completely, in between fleeting moments of great entertainment. People have been getting angrier lately at the regurgitation of the whole "we only use 10-20% of our brain" myth, but it's not something I've ever been bothered by, as a plot device. Admittedly, I used to think it was true, but even nowadays I think it's a fun idea, as long as you buy into it in the name of fun fun fun. But Lucy isn't content to provide you with fun. It wants to have depth, it wants to make you think. And that's when it falls down.

Don't get me wrong. Dumb fun can be great. Smart entertainment can be great. Smart dumb hits me right in the funny bone. But when a movie really seems to think it's smart, despite throwing dumb moment after dumb moment at the audience, then it becomes difficult to like. Besson shows his hand early - clumsily editing a sequence in which Lucy is asked to meet some men with wildlife footage showing a predator chase down some prey (because she's put in the position of the prey - get it? GET IT??) - and continues to use the same tricks again and again, as he shows the evolution of Lucy once the drugs begin to work on her.

The frustrating thing here is that Lucy IS a potentially great character, with Johansson effortlessly exuding cool confidence once she's really able to kick ass and manipulate her environment. Freeman may be Mr. Exposition, but does perfectly well in his role, and Waked moves through the whole thing with an amusing expression of fear and awe. Min-Sik Choi is the main villain, the man responsible for the state in which Lucy finds herself, but he pales in significance when compared to how the woman is struggling inside her own mind and body.

All of the failings here are caused by Besson, whether it's his inane script (and, believe me, there's a reference in the final scenes that may well cause a few fans of true, classic sci-fi to cry out in disgust - Kubrick would not be impressed) or his horrible, slapdash approach to the half-baked material. The editing choices, the gaping plot holes, the groan-inducing lack of anything approaching logic (not REAL logic, obviously, but even simpler movie logic), the poor CGI, the aspects of Kabbalism mixed in. Besson, as writer and director, can take the blame for all of it.

But, hey, it's already a bit of a hit at the box office. Although, just perhaps, that may say more about our own evolution than anything in the movie itself.


The review for Lucy may not be in there YET, but it's still worth spending a few pounds to treat yourself to my book chock full of reviews you can agree with, disagree with, mock at your leisure.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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