Lucy has sparks of brilliance that are unfortunately lost in a confusing mishmash of science-fiction and existential meandering. Raghav Modi elaborates…
I must admit that I am a Luc Besson fan, and have been for more than a decade now. Not only has he directed some of the most remembered films of our time (Leon, The Fifth Element, The Big Blue, Nikita…), but look at his filmography and you’ll realize that he’s behind a number of successful films (Transporter series, Taken series, District 13, Taxi, Subway…) in some way or another be it writing or producing. There is no doubt that Besson’s forte is action, especially with a strong female lead, and he has managed that quite well over the years. Thus, when a film like Lucy comes along which has all the trademark elements of a Besson film; science fiction, female lead, action, there is high expectation and anticipation from the film. Unfortunately, it is with a heavy heart that I must say this time around, things fall flat.
The premise is perfect. An unsuspecting girl, in a foreign land, gets involved with the mafia and as a result is forced to become a drug mule for them, carrying a special kind of blue crystals in her stomach. When the bag of crystals begins to leak, Lucy played by the off and on Scarlett Johansson, is suddenly bestowed upon the power to utilize her brain to a capacity which is more than any human has every achieved. Now she is out for revenge, and while her brain is “alive” she seems to make mistakes and do things that are completely unnecessary, like leave Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) alive, but essential only to drag the film along. We also have Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman who is the main authority in this field and eventually Lucy and his paths cross in order to give the story a rather existential ending.
The film isn’t bad at all, to begin with. The first few minutes are perfectly fine even though Besson is clearly influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey and is trying to go beyond a run-of-the-mill action thriller. It is this need to give a commentary on evolution and what seems like an exploration of metaphysical philosophy that eventually leads to the downfall of the film. Take for instance a scene where Lucy faces a few bad guys in a hallway; while this would be an excellent chance to show off some martial arts, what we get is Lucy wavering her fingers and using her brain power to what can only be described as giving the bad guys an experience in zero-gravity. There are many instances like these, a missed opportunity for a good car chase is another example, that stand out and leave a bitter taste. This need to change the fiction and science of the film into science-fiction simply doesn’t work, at all.
Add to that the actors; while Scarlett Johansson suits the role, and she would after having played Black Widow in the Avengers, her blank non-emotional look during most of the film is just awkward. Freeman is just about fine in a role that he could and probably did do in his sleep. No one really stands out, and while that is acceptable in an action film at times, since the action doesn’t make up for the lack of characterization, the audience has nothing to really appreciate or enjoy.
Lucy is a film that tries to fill shoes that are too big for it. Besson might have been excellent in combining action and science fiction with philosophy in The Fifth Element, but here he just isn’t able to control his story and while visually there are moments of brilliance, they are so short lived that no one is going to remember them by the end of the film.
Written by Raghav Modi
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik
Genre: Science-Fiction / Action
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Lucy is released in the UK on DVD & Blu-ray – January 12th