Lucy was supposed to be a special movie experience and it was, just not in the way I expected it to be. You see, I’m currently vacationing in Florida, where I used to live, and my friend and I decided it would be fun to go back to the movie theater in my hometown. This is the place where I fell in love with movies in the first place, so needless to say, I was happy to be there, and pumped for just about anything. By the time Lucy had ended, and I had experienced the most infuriating, baffling, nonsensical 90 minutes that I have seen in many years, I looked over to my friend and said, “If there is another movie as bad as Lucy this year, I give up on film, period.”
We begin Lucy by spending about a minute or so watching a random stone age woman splash water…ok then. After that, we find the titular Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) in a bit of a precarious situation. She’s been forced to deliver a briefcase with unknown contents to a ruthless crime lord (Min-sik Choi) by her cowardly boyfriend. Once she is captured, she finds out that the case contains a mysterious blue drug that has been put inside of her. When this bag is opened when she is attacked, it starts to maximize her brain’s potential. You see, as Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) explains in a series of random cutaway lectures as this is all going on, human beings can only use 10% of their brain, but if they are allowed to access more, they could potentially obtain powers beyond that of a regular human being.
The ineptitude of this film is beyond belief. It’s so bafflingly assembled that one has to wonder if every single person on the set spoke a different language. Nothing works together, it’s all just a bunch of slapdash ideas, bad performances, and over-stylization where it isn’t particularly needed.
Let’s just start with fundamentals for a moment, basic story structure and screenwriting techniques are completely beyond this movie’s grasp. This is particularly evident in the first act. Writer/Director Luc Besson is hilariously self involved, thinking to himself that any stylistic touch, stupid or not, will register with an audience as cool, and a film fan as artistic. Really, it just registers with everybody as stupid. In perhaps the most critical moments of the whole film, where Lucy is captured, instead of just letting things play out, Besson cuts to random footage of Cheetahs stalking and Gazelle. Gee, what could it mean!? As if that wasn’t enough, we are periodically going to Freeman so he can explain to us in excruciating detail science that does not exist. There is no need to over explain such a nonsensical premise to this degree, especially when we need to be experiencing things through our main character’s eyes, feeling her fear, and falling in love with her so we can root for her later.
On the subject of that main character, she is an utter misfire. Often times, a great lead performance can ground a movie like this, and make it more bearable and Johansson has proved herself to be more than capable as both an actress, and as an action star before. Here, through a combination of terrible writing and direction, all of her good qualities as a performer are sucked out of her. She starts off strong, really selling the fear of being captured and almost killed in a world that she has nothing to do with, however, once she gets the drug, all of that humanity disappears. Lucy turns into a stone faced, monotone delivery system for faux intellectual dialogue about the nature of life, and the universe. There’s never that moment of awe or wonder at her newfound god-like powers. She’s utterly stoic, and completely flaccid. She never seems more intelligent, she just seems like she’s reading lines off of a prompter. I don’t blame Johansson for this in the slightest though, as the rest of the movie is so dysfunctional that there was probably only so much she could do.
The supporting performances are even worse. Morgan Freeman is clearly on autopilot here. In fact, he’s so utterly disengaged with delivering this falsely intellectual dialogue, that his vocal mannerisms often lead to some unintentionally hilarious moments. Around the time of his first agonized voice crack, my friend and I looked at each other, and started bursting out in uproarious laughter, and honestly, I don’t think anyone there blamed us. I haven’t seen the original Oldboy, and I’m sure Min-sik Choi was fantastic in the leading role, but here, he is reduced to a walking stereotype that is either staring, or screaming, depending on the moment. Amr Waked also shows up as a police officer who inexplicably aids Lucy, and his interactions with her are entirely without chemistry or camaraderie. He just sort of listens to Lucy babble, just as the audience has…for a long time.
The action sequences are decent, but it’s not nearly enough to justify everything else. Besson has clearly been making action films for a long time, and captures it all with fluid camera movement, and solid incorporation of visual effects. Even so, there isn’t really a whole lot going on in these sequences, and honestly, you’ve seen 99% of the cool moments in the trailer. We never get that moment where we see Lucy as a true badass, she just seems like a bag of bones who got lucky.
It’s hard for me to even sit here and express how frustrating this film is. It’s a film that forgoes a potentially very cool concept in favor of a pretentious and ponderous mess. In fact, it’s not even the first film to address this concept, and that film, ‘Limitless’ is a far superior piece of work and in my opinion one of the most underrated films of the past decade. As this drones on and on, it just gets worse, and worse, until we arrive at the ending, one of the worst on-screen sequences I’ve ever witnessed. There’s really only one person blame here, Luc Besson. It’s clear that nobody was allowed to tell him “no” on any of his ideas, and as such, he drowns the film in his own god awful ideas. This isn’t just the worst film I’ve seen this year, but in many, many years.