‘Lucy’ Review

Published 1 month ago by , Updated August 8th, 2014 at 10:48 am,

Lucy Movie 2014 Scarlett Johansson Lucy Review

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.

TRAILER

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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)

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53 Comments

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  1. It’s Mr. Jang, not Kang.

  2. I would give “Lucy” four stars. I took evolution courses, and I’m impressed to see someone did the homework on this. Lucy was discovered in Africa and dated to be 3.4 million years old. So far she is the oldest skeletal remains of a humanoid.This movie goes beyond Lucy to the single cell theory. An original movie, not a sequel or prequel. With real astronomy with Morgan Freeman “Through the wormhole”. I like this movie.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

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

  6. Waste of money….

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

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

    Sincerely,
    The Grammar Police

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