‘Lucy’ Review

Published 9 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:09 am,

Lucy Movie 2014 Scarlett Johansson Lucy Review

Lucy will not speak to a wide audience but those that fall within its target reach should be rewarded with thought-provoking science fiction.

In Lucy Scarlett Johansson plays the titular character – an innocent young woman forced to work as a drug mule for the mob in Taipei, Taiwan. Threatened with harm to her family and friends, Lucy agrees to transport an experimental substance via surgical implantation inside of her belly. However, when one of the thugs viciously attacks Lucy prior to her flight, the drug packet breaks open – leaking a lethal dose of chemicals into her system.

Yet she does not die, instead realizing that the drug has radically improved nervous response - setting Lucy on a path to unlocking the full potential of her brain. Moving past the 10% (according to the movie) that normal humans use, Lucy begins to discover a host of new abilities - including telekinesis and mind-reading, among other superpowers that defy our understanding of human physiology. Armed with powerful skills, Lucy attempts to round-up remaining samples of the drug – to keep the substance out of malevolent hands as well as blaze forward on her journey of enlightenment.

French filmmaker Luc Besson (Léon: The Professional and The Fifth Element), who has also produced and written a number of successful thrillers (such as Taken and The Transporter) directs Lucy. In spite of its sci-fi action marketing, the film is more aptly described as sci-fi drama with a few stylized action beats. This isn’t to say that, on its own terms, Besson’s film is a misfire – it just might not be the gun-toting, jump-kicking brawler that some moviegoers were expecting. Instead, Besson delivers an uneven but interesting blend of philosophy and scientific theory that attempts to comment on human nature and our place within all of creation – with subtle and not-so subtle filmmaking decisions to hammer home his message. As a result, reactions to Lucy will vary greatly – certain cinephiles will relish in Besson’s playfulness (and uncompromising commitment to his core concept) while casual moviegoers may find the film’s eccentricities to be downright distracting (and laugh-worthy).

Lucy Movie Scarlett Johansson Lucy Review

Scarlett Johansson as Lucy

Ultimately, as Lucy begins unlocking brain potential and new abilities, Besson is less interested in what the character can actually do, focusing the majority of his attention on how she perceives others as well as what these discoveries might mean for humankind’s future. The story is packed with heady sci-fi ideas and Besson does his best to ensure that, as Lucy journeys to 100%, her character evolves along with the plot. However, given that the story is glued to Lucy’s perspective, some viewers may find it hard to connect with both the main character and surrounding players.

As Lucy learns more about humanity and the greater universe, she becomes increasingly less “human” - and subsequently less capable of forming a genuine connection with others. As a result, most of the supporting players come across as thinly formed outlines, representative of how Lucy views them, little more than cogs in a vast machine. The same can be said for the film’s action set-pieces. Each one provides interesting visuals but few carry substantial weight – since Lucy is over-powered and mostly indifferent to her antagonists. After all, if the main character isn’t frightened or worried about her life (or the lives of those around her), it’s unlikely that the audience will be any more invested or anxious.

Lucy Movie 2014 Morgan Freeman Lucy Review

Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman in ‘Lucy’

Nevertheless, Scarlett Johansson delivers an intriguing performance in the lead role – with just enough setup, and one especially touching scene in the opening act, to ground Lucy before she begins disassociating from the rest of humanity. Lucy’s indifference works within the context of the film but she’s more of a flesh and blood opportunity to showcase the premise than a developed individual - living scientific theory instead of a memorable or particularly likable person. To that end, the actress and Besson succeed in their depiction of a woman losing touch with the very things that make her human but some viewers will, understandably, be underwhelmed by the lead character’s overall detachment.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast does little to help supplement Lucy with humor or relatable empathy. Morgan Freeman is charming in his role as Professor Samuel Norman – but the character is almost entirely relegated to providing exposition for the film’s scientific theories along with explaining what Lucy is actually doing at any given moment. Similarly, Amr Waked is equally thin as a French police officer that gets tangled in Lucy’s quest to procure more of the experimental drug – dedicating his life to her protection almost immediately (without fully comprehending her motives). Choi Min-sik serves as the film’s primary villain, Mr. Kang – supported by a horde of faceless henchmen for Lucy to avoid/kill/incapacitate. Kang is provided with a memorable introduction but, once he loses control, becomes little more than a hopelessly outmatched fly buzzing in Lucy’s heightened periphery.

Lucy Movie 2014 Scarlett Johansson Amr Waked Lucy Review

Amr Waked as Pierre Del Rio

Without question, action-thriller fans will be underwhelmed by Besson’s latest effort – which prioritizes brainy scientific theories over heavy-hitting brawls at every single turn. Similarly, while the filmmaker’s choice to directly parallel Lucy’s story with nature and evolutionary biology makes sense in context, a number of on-the-nose moments might illicit eye-rolls and unintended laughs from viewers who are struggling to connect with Besson’s vision. That said, for moviegoers who are interested in a bookish sci-fi drama that often poses more questions than answers, Lucy could provide a worthwhile, albeit sometimes clumsy, exploration of this central premise.

In the end, many elements that make Lucy off-putting for casual moviegoers will be the same hooks that make the film engaging and believable to sci-fi lovers. Lucy will not speak to a wide audience but those that fall within its target reach should be rewarded with thought-provoking science fiction.



Lucy runs 90 minutes and is Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
TAGS: Lucy
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. It’s Mr. Jang, not Kang.

  2. Since the whole movie is based on a myth, the myth that people only use 10% of their brain power, it sounds like a waste of time.

    • Since your post is based on the myth that your opinion is worth something, I guess we all know what your post is, then, don’t we?

    • That was the problem for me. The things she says and what the movie shows would have been more thought provoking if the cognitive capacity, evolution, quantum physics, medicine etc was accurate.

      Instead it was pretty clearly there to justify why she would be able to levitate Korean gangsters with her mind so I kept munching my popcorn waiting for it to turn into an full on action movie.

    • Thank you everytime I see that old myth about “we only use 10% or 15% of our mind/brain” depending on what ignorant soul is repeating that drivel, I uncontrollably wince. It’s the worst thing to be put forth as science since that reporter put that concept into a paper article back in the 30′s or 40′s based on that hypothesis put forward by some “scientist” I could care less about the name of in the 1800′s. Then the movie just regurgitates pseudo science mysticism/ metaphysics the rest of it’s entirety. I only attended it because of the Director/Writer and everyone is allowed one steaming pile and that movie “Lucy” is his.

      • Oh boy, you didn’t realize it’s FICTIONAL story?!! So, you must have been disgusted with movies like Superman not being realistic enough. At no point did they give a disclaimer, that I saw anyway, that said based on a true story, regardless to the percentage of brain humans function on is a tool to tell his story, like kryptonite in Superman, you don’t dismiss it cuz it’s not a real element, and besides, you’re totally missing the point, be a good audience, be entertained and realize that even though we ARE in fact all connected, and have unimaginable capabilities, our civilization is unfortunately full of horrible people, and we’re all doomed!

        • No, despite you overwhelming sarcasm, I get completely what Neo is saying. If the movie had focused more on the action sequences, then this ‘fictional’ (read: completely and utterly false) information regarding the human brain could have easily been disregarded. However, within the structure that Besson setup in the film, where we were pushed to wax philosophically about the underusage of the human brain, just exposed that much more, how much complete bull the base premise is.

          I went in, having heard the premise over and over again in the trailers, about the 10% brain thing, and fully expected this to be an all-out superpowered beatdown by a hot chick. What I got, instead, was an attempt to more fully explore a completely disproven theory of human behavior and evolution.

          Steaming pile, indeed, Neo.

  3. Ok, the theory of Evolution and bla bla bla are pretty interesting, but I, for one, don’t like movies where the protagonist is SOOOOOOOO OVERPOWERED!

  4. Sorry, I meant OVERPOWERFUL, anyway, it’s rating is 6.6 outta 10 according to IMDb.

  5. Waste of money….

  6. I just got back from watching Lucy, and I for one was positively entertained. It isn’t based on a true story it is simply a movie of what-ifs. If you haters weren’t so close-minded and got the movie for what it was, you too would be entertained. Im not the smartest chip off the old block but I got the movie for what it was without pointing out what was wrong with it. It does have a Transcendence feel to it, but was a totally different experience entirely. It is an intellectually stimulating movie that should open your mind to science fiction/fantasy. I for one didn’t get the concept of Star Wars and didn’t like the concept of The Avengers. Bottom line… Go and see Lucy if you haven’t already. It was quite entertaining, although if you read into it too much you will be left thinking the movie was dumb or that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Just like the movie Detention that came out a couple of years ago. Don’t try to make the movie into some truth or speculation about the existence of the world’s origin or whatnot, just get it for what it is. A dazzling spectacle of a movie about alternate realities and brain capacity. They are not trying to say “Hey! This is truly what happens when you take synthetic CPH4. You gain all of this super intelligence and powers!” They are merely saying “Hey! What if…….

    • My own take is not Transcendence, but “Limitless on LSD”.

      It’s much the same general premise — “there’s a drug out there that can make your brain into a superbrain” and both have a similar premise, that “the right person” gets this rather than the wrong one. Limitless remains in largely reasonable and believable territory, while Lucy (equally good, I’d argue) definitely hares off into less realistic “superhero/comic book” territory.

      It’s a good movie, not meant to be taken too seriously. Rather than call it SF (it’s too good to be “sci fi”, I would describe it as “Science Fantasy”, much like Doctor Who. It’s fantasy with many of the trappings of SF and science, but it doesn’t toe the line of scientific fact sufficiently to be true SF. Most modern comic books are in this genre, too.

  7. I couldnt wait to see Lucy when it opened . I liked the initial story line and charater build. Unfortunately the ending just felt as though the only reason they used Morgan Freeman in the movie was to promote his series Through the worm hole with Morgan Freeman. The potential for an action adventure was endless yet it died in a science project for the movies. This could have easily have been a great franchise if they had slowed down her progression in gaining percentages of brain usage through a couple of other movies. Scarlett Johansson was perfect in the role. WHat a greatly lost opportunity to do more with the characters.

    • Exactly

  8. Lucy is God! That is what I got from the Movie!

  9. I give the movie 1 star. unlocking the brain potential to the max can possibly make a person so bright as to control other people’s minds, even computer systems, be most proficient in fighting skills, martial arts, swordsplay, gunfights but not give the person ability to perform miracles such as changing from blond to brunette instantly. they messed up the plot of the movie when they included miracles as part of the brain’s capabilities.

  10. Why would you go to see a movie if you want preset plot, certain hero/villain and expected outcome?

    Besson raises questions about human condition, existence and motives that drive us.

    Lucy is not the only thing happening in the movie.

  11. I thought it was an alright movie. It was a variation of “Limitless” if you have seen that movie. Then again Hollwood isn’t really churning out any original ideas lately so it’s par for the course.

  12. Just watched it, wasn’t at all impressed given the cast and the obvious money spent on it. 4/10, mostly on the back of decent production values.

    I like sci fi movies, but the sci fi aspect was just risibly bad. I was impressed Morgan Freeman could keep a straight face through it all, and the profundity coming out of homo superior didn’t really impress me either. Let alone the weirdness of someone having 100% use of their brain becoming God. It’s more of a comic book movie than what I would term a sci fi movie.

  13. Everytime I see that old myth about “we only use 10% or 15% of our mind/brain” depending on what ignorant soul is repeating that drivel, I uncontrollably wince. It’s the worst thing to be put forth as science since that reporter put that concept into a paper article back in the 30′s or 40′s based on that hypothesis put forward by some “scientist” I could care less about the name of in the 1800′s. Then the movie just regurgitates pseudo science mysticism/ metaphysics the rest of it’s entirety. I only attended it because of the Director/Writer and everyone is allowed one steaming pile and that movie “Lucy” is his.

    This movie is not really a gritty Luc Besson action flick nor is it really sci-fi. It is closer along the lines of that hippy dippy metaphysical crud that was that insipid movie “What the bleep do we know?” a number of years back. Yeah this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius and all that blah blah.

    “Lucy” is the only movie I have seen this year that I truly felt was a waste of ticket price. Now I LOVED “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Edge of Tomorrow” with Edge being really good sci fi and Guardians being great sci fantasy!

  14. Hello. You wrote, “moments might illicit eye-rolls.” However, you should have written, “moments might elicit eye-rolls.”

    The Grammar Police

    • Spelling and Grammar are not the same thing.

      Yours Sincerely,

      The smart arse police :)

  15. Possibly the dumbest movie ever. Who wrote the storyline? A 5 year old kid? This movie can serve as a test – if you don’t facepalm every 10 mins, you must be complete retard.

  16. hay i want to tell u some thing special
    that frim some days i am feeling like lucy that i have the answer of every thing
    please if u r intrsted in me call me at 03439756921
    name : Maqsood khan
    Adress : pakistan kpk peshawer universty road

  17. Scarlett Johansson is the most beautiful woman in the world, Amen

  18. I didn’t mind Lucy, it passed quickly and kept me seated although it wasn’t fantastic. I was confused and waiting for the story to start and it never really began, I was also expecting it to be more about the destination (what she could do with that much knowledge) and not the process of how she unlocked 100% of her brain’s capabilities. Another thing about Lucy was the fact that there was so much they could have done with the movie, endless concepts they could have explored, and they mostly focused on the concept of control.

  19. Your review nailed it. I like Scarlett, but could not engage with her character once she became more like a robot. The French police man cared about her too quickly. I laughed when she met Lucy.

    That said, I was entertained, but I laughed more than I think they wanted me to. I also guessed what would happen next – a lot. I hate that…that means I could have written it myself.

  20. So many things wrong with this movie. Why are the Koreans smuggling this drug in the first place if no one knows what it does? Does it get you high or make you smart? Who is buying it, and for what reason? They have to force a criminal to snort it, seriously? Doesn’t sound like much of a market for it, if you have to have a gun pointed to your head to use it.

    The 10% of your brain theory is pretty much know to be hokey these days, and Morgan Freeman’s character spouting off what will happen at 20%, 30%, etc. is pretty much totally made up and makes no logical sense. In fact, he says at some point that he doesn’t really know, and says that it is just a “theory” of his that no one else has heard of or agrees with. It’s not a “theory”, where there are testable points that explain how things work, it’s a pretty poor hypothesis at best, and mostly wild-ass guesses. Why does control over your own body at some arbitrary percentage level eventually lead to controlling other people’s bodies, for example? Just because the processor (the brain) gets faster, doesn’t mean it can suddenly perform magic stunts like throwing people around.

    Near the end of the movie, Lucy is now cooking at 80% or so, but can’t manage to multitask enough, and hands off the task of controlling the Korean mob to the police, whom will fail at the climax, causing lots of needless deaths. Didn’t she know that, isn’t she supposed to be supersmart? Couldn’t she just as easily put a force field around the facility while she was hooking up with the computer to prevent them being interrupted?

    Why does every SciFi movie have to portray that the smarter a person is, the more robotic and stiff acting they become, in addition to becoming a psychopath? I really got tired of seeing Scarlett Johannson’s tilting her head with a serious-but-dumb look a dog will do when you make a funny noise just before she does some random act of either putting up an invisible shield, or lifting the bad guys to the ceiling.

    Terrible Sci-fi, too many logic holes, and the action scenes, though entertaining, have been done before and better.