Lucy features Scarlett Johansson as a woman who runs afoul of mobsters in Taiwan that force her to become a drug mule to smuggle a new drug into Europe. Through a series of events, the pouch bursts inside of her and the drugs begin to change her. Here’s where the scientific myth comes into it. Basically, Besson puts forth the debunked theory that a person only uses 10% of their cerebral capacity, which is hammered home—repeatedly. The drugs are supposedly unlocking Lucy’s brain until she reaches 100%. Though this 10% theory has been shot down in the scientific community, it becomes the central conceit of the film. I know science fiction has a license to stretch the bounds of believability, but when the whole premise of the story is flawed, everything just falls apart.
Morgan Freeman plays a scientist who supplies both the exposition and theory that plays out over the film as Lucy evolves. Basically, she becomes kind of like Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen as far as the scope of her powers goes. Meanwhile, the mobsters, led by Min-sik Choi of Oldboy fame, try to track her down for both revenge and to get their drugs back—Lucy feels she needs them in order for her to reach her full potential, which never really makes total sense. What results is a movie that feels like the offspring of Her (where Scarlett Johansson plays an AI), Under the Skin (where she plays an emotionless alien who learns empathy), and Transcendence (where you basically substitute Johnny Depp in for ScarJo and it’s essentially the same film). Of course, Lucy is nowhere near as good a film as Her, isn’t as unique as Under the Skin, and isn’t as interesting as the themes brought up in Transcendence, which, admittedly, was a very flawed film.
While the faulty premise is definitely a problem, it also doesn’t help that the film goes on to break its own rules and nothing really makes sense at all. People talk and it’s like they’re just spouting words that they claim are all connected and make sense, but when you think about it, they don’t. It felt like Besson had some ideas for a few cool scenes and he just strung them together with some clunky philosophical mumbo jumbo. This could have been a really cool film where the drugs just mutate Lucy into a metahuman, but Besson tried to step out of his comfort zone and make a film that “says something.” Unfortunately, there’s no there, there and the film just comes across as one with its head up its own ass.
The acting is fine for what the performers are given. I thought Johansson did really well, but we’ve seen her in this role before. As her powers increase, she loses emotion, making her exactly like her character from Under the Skin and, to a degree, Her. In fact, her journey is almost exactly like Samantha’s in Her, but just a poorly told version of that.
Overall, Lucy is a mess, but it’s not even a fun mess. It’s boring. The action becomes almost masturbatory when you have a character that can stop people with a wave of her hand. Besson tried to throw in some arty elements that just end up being heavy-handed and unnecessary. It could have been a cool little flick, but instead, it’s just a waste of time.