Falling back on a long debunked myth Hollywood fell in love with years ago that somehow a person only uses 10% of their brain, the latest movie from writer/director Luc Besson casts Scarlett Johansson as a completely unexceptional young woman whose mind is opened up by a designer drug allowing her to access more and more of her “unused” brain. The result feels very much like a script where only a fraction of 10% of a person’s brain power was used to write it.
Unapologetically becoming more and more like The Matrix as Lucy’s intelligence grows and gives her access to the hidden code of the world (which is never adequately explained despite the narration by Morgan Freeman‘s character) and various super powers, Besson’s story never differentiates between the ability to absorb knowledge and knowledge itself. Just because Lucy suddenly has a bigger brain doesn’t mean she still wouldn’t have to learn the knowledge or skills (including advanced computer coding and foreign languages) to properly use them.
Also deeply troubling is the fact that the smartest woman on the planet makes the dumbest, and most cliched, of all action movie mistakes in first pissing off a powerful enemy (Min-sik Choi), queuing him in on her exact plan, and then leaving him alive to continue chasing her and putting her life in danger throughout the course of the movie. The dumb move coincidentally also leads to the various stunt sequences Besson loves so much including the movie’s climactic shoot ’em up.
There are pieces of the film which work. Besson’s script makes good use of animal imagery, especially during Lucy being pulled into the bizarre situation (nearly all the best scenes take place in the first 20 minutes), infusing the film’s early scenes a fun sense of humor which it lacks later once Lucy becomes less human and Johansson goes into detached one-note ass-kicking mode. And as we’ve seen from her role as the Black Widow from the Marvel movies, Johansson (with the help of her stunt doubles) has learned to look quite convincing in these scenes. The choreographed fight sequences and special effects are passable, although hardly original or all that memorable.
More concerned with delivering a dumb action-thriller with a tiny bit of sci-fi thrown in than actually exploring the concept of what Lucy is becoming, Besson offers minimal effort in fleshing out any of the characters or exploring out the movie’s broader themes and what the existence of the drug (now known about by several people) and Lucy’s evolution may mean for the wider world. Those looking for a stylized shoot ’em up may be bored in spots as the action portions of the film move in fits and starts filled in by gaps of people being impressed or scared by Lucy’s new-found power (while never giving us her reaction to it). And those hoping for anything approaching a fraction of Lucy’s intelligence used behind the camera and showing up on-screen in any meaningful way are going to be even more disappointed.