Is Lucy better than many have given it credit for? Ryan Pollard certainly thinks so as he takes a look at Luc Besson’s stylish science-fiction film…
The concept of the film is very similar to Neil Burger’s Limitless, and a lot of people have commented that Lucy sounds very much like Burger’s film but Luc Besson has claimed to have written the screenplay long before Limitless came out. It does start with the same point as Limitless with the urban myth of being able to use up to 100% of the brain’s capacity, but Lucy goes in exactly the opposite direction, because that film was pretty much a wish-fulfilment fantasy about a struggling writer taking this drug in order to become a successful writer and also manipulate the stock market. Lucy is much more science-fiction minded as the protagonist gains superpowers as a result of taking the drug, and I love the idea of the film saying that the world is actually nothing like how we experience it at all, and that is an idea that has been explored, not just in science fiction, but also in the realms of physics and philosophy for years.
Another aspect that is highly remarkable is the characterisation of Lucy, because she starts losing the capacity to make mistakes, but as a consequence, that almost makes her lose a bit more of her own humanity as she starts unlocking more and more of her brain capacity, almost to the point where she becomes sort of robotic. This is something that Johansson pulls off effortlessly and confidently, and this is clearly her movie as she’s in nearly every single frame. Plus, if you look at her doing this, Her and Under the Skin, they make an interesting triple bill. There’s actually a lot of comparison between this and Wally Pfister’s underrated Transcendence, and being one of the few defenders of Transcendence, I would say the one advantage Lucy has over that is that it’s wittier and funnier. The problem with Besson is that there are times that his humour works and yet there are times when he becomes too indulgent and enjoying himself too much, but in the case of this, it’s thankfully the former.
Along the way, there are clear influences of The Tree of Life, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Akira and The Matrix. It even resembles an episode of Doctor Who as it deals with more radical themes of time and space relativity. But also, as it gets into the final act, it starts to owe a lot of debt to Ken Russell’s Altered States, which was adapted from the novel by Paddy Chayefsky. It deals with a character going through a regenerative stage at a molecular level, into human past and resulting in the ability to time travel, and both are about how everything is engaged and connected in one molecule of everybody’s body. Plus, even though that ending is completely nuts, it’s highly admirable that Besson is able to pull it off, because what you would expect to happen is for somebody to make that movie, bottle it and then go, “No, that’s not how it’s going to end. It will traditionally end with a chase, a shootout and resolution”. And then four years later, somebody would say, “Actually, you should’ve checked out the original ending”, and then that comes out on DVD/blu-ray, and viewers might’ve preferred that ending over what was shown at cinemas.
On the downside, the only boring part about the film are the car chases, because Luc Besson car chases are just infinitely dull as they just consist of shiny cars careering through small streets with many people getting hurt or killed and no one caring about it afterwards. Also, if you watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, you would think that this is how apes should be portrayed in future cinema, yet when you look at Lucy, you realise things haven’t changed as it has the worst ape of all time.
But the positives greatly outweigh the negatives, and what’s great is that, at 85 minutes, it’s stripped-back, and it’s almost, in the best sense, a thrill ride of a film that sweeps you off your feet and spins you around. It’s eccentric, daft and completely nuts, which only adds to its enjoyment by not taking itself so seriously. In the end, for all the things that are wrong with it, and despite the fact that it’s crazy and ridiculous, Lucy is highly enjoyable fun and deserves repeat viewings.
Written by Ryan Pollard
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 was released in the UK on DVD & Blu-ray – January 12th