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Review: Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’ Starring Scarlet Johansson And Morgan Freeman

Review: Luc Besson's 'Lucy' Starring Scarlet Johansson And Morgan Freeman

There’s a moment in Luc Besson‘s “Lucy
when Scarlett Johansson‘s title character has cracked the code of
existence like a videogame cheat. She goes Rust Cohle on who are
appropriately the smartest minds of the world, explaining how numbers
are just one of many false constructs that humans use to bring sense
to a life of chaos. Which is amusing, since “Lucy” itself is all
math—one beautiful superstar (a game Johansson), one Morgan
Freeman (Morgan Freeman), a chase, some fights, superpowers, a brief
moment of transcendence, gorgeous colors, all wrapped up in an 80-minute bow. Merely the presence of these elements are a delight,
nevermind the inconsistently lyrical manner in which Besson combines
them. It’s basically the perfect summer movie, because it’s designed
to be.


Johansson begins “Lucy” as a grad
student party girl, forced to go on an errand for boyfriend Richard
(Pilou Asbaek of “A Hijacking”) that eventually finds her
unwillingly turned into a drug mule for a volatile new chemical that basically synthesizes the essence of life. The nature of this
drug trafficking, or why gang bosses like Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik)
rely on it, are obnoxiously vague, because the movie just needs Lucy
to accidentally overdose on this science-fiction concoction in order
to unlock the higher percentage of her cerebral cortex. If you hold
dearly to the idea that the “10% of our brains” concept is a
myth, this movie isn’t for you: not only is it cold hard science in
this film, but it also represents something of a ticking bomb in this
aspect. It’s like watching a videogame where as a character
progresses, their power bar increases rather than deflates.


On a most basic level, “Lucy” is at
the intersection of “Akira” and “Crank,” with Johansson’s
brainpower increasing her ability to control the people and places
around her, toying with physical matter as if she were fingerpainting
as she searches for more of this miracle drug. There’s relatively
zero tension in “Lucy” by design, as the thrill emerges from the
disappearance of limitation: in one amusing sequence, she’s
confronted by thugs and, with a wave of her hand, she floats them to
the ceiling as they wildly throw punches into the air. Say this for
“Lucy”: based on no previous material, it’s nonetheless a real
comic book fantasia in its depiction of Lucy’s increasing abilities.
Our legions of superhero films have dominated the culture in spite of
their mundane moments of characters becoming something more than
human, only for them to boringly take flight or trade fisticuffs with
equally powerful punching bags. “Lucy” certainly raises the bar
in that aspect, with a heroine who folds the world as if it were deli
bread, preferring to bend the rules of physics surrounding her.
There’s a massive shootout near the end, and Lucy’s inaction in this
moment feels like more of a show of contempt. You dumb humans and
your popguns.


Johansson, unsurprisingly, is a
delight. Following “Under The Skin,” this is the second movie of
2014 that finds the world’s most beautiful woman utterly perplexed by
the rest of humanity. She treats Lucy’s new-found and slowly building
skills as a form of functioning autism. She loses any and all
patience with people still figuring anything out in the world, and it’s
meant to be the steady resolve of a woman slowly being bombarded by
all the information one could imagine and trying to maintain her
composure. As such, she’s testy and distant. Her final real moment of
humanity happens early on, when she sits on an operating table and
slowly learns of her ability to remember anything while on the phone
with her perplexed mother. Besson, prankster that he is, could have
played this moment for laughs, but instead it’s touching and
metaphysically fascinating: here she is with her creator, developing
the awareness that she’s surpassing her in every single way. It’s one
of cinema’s most clever illustrations of godhood.

“Lucy” is really something of a
stunt, an excuse for a character to develop a higher power for genre
purposes. Any time a character has to address the philosophical ideas
in the plot, the picture stalls: Besson is clearly more at home with
his visual wit, like a strikingly realistic car chase that defies
every law of safety. Lucy’s brain capacity keeps popping up onscreen
in big numbers—20%, 40%—building to that climax. And when it
arrives, it’s complete Looney Tunes, a whirling fantasia of effects
and images that begins to bend the fabric of space and time as even
Morgan Freeman looks on, flummoxed. It’s almost as if Lucy herself is
trying to escape her own movie. It’s as if Besson himself knows that he,
like other filmmakers, are better than this, better than the CGI
orgy, better than the endless brawls, better than the tacky
genre-defining one-on-one confrontations. You dumb humans and your
popguns. [B+]

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Comments

Madilen

Thanks I really liked your review in the movie. The first good one I found yet. I just watched it yesterday and today I tried to find interesting articles about it or background infos. But I basically only found people hating about the movie. Maybe it now occurs to me- their conception oft the world was crashed by it in some way… I think the movie was brilliant despite its downsides like ridiculous car chases you mentioned above. And it is quite funny how many people feel provoked by the 10% myth and think they know exactly themselves it is actually 100% we use. The truth is, asbfar as I know it is known very little yet about how our brain really works. But as cases of savants show – there are unimaginable things people r able to do – maybe not to the extent the movie shows, but I think it is more meant like a metaphoar

Jack

Oops! How ironic. Of course I meant to type ‘When you say ‘math’, I assume you mean ‘maths’?’

Jack

When you say ‘math’, I assume you ran ‘maths’?

FITZCARRALDONT

I'm grateful for all the negative reviews the movie generated elsewhere on the internet because it allowed for a very satisfying shock when the movie turned out to be tremendous. It's interesting that critics have characterized the premise of this movie as dumb. (Not that Gabe did here, but many, many other critics have). It certainly is a conceptual and perhaps childish central idea, but it's hardly anti-intellectual, ridiculous or low-brow. Why care if the conceit that we only use 10% of our brains is false (or outmoded)? So is the existence of Hoth. Pharmacology is fascinating and ripe for dramatic invention. Besides, who actually expects or needs Palme d'Or-worthy thematic material from a Hollywood summer blockbuster? That's what Hulu Plus is for. While Gabe's review here is positive, I wonder why it only produced a B+. Maybe Gabe would care to elaborate. Clearly the movie has sparked a debate. Hopefully this word-of-mouth controversy will propel more ticket-sales, which will encourage studios to return to larger-budget original content from tested directors. Personally I haven't enjoyed a summer blockbuster in a theater on opening weekend this much since The Dark Knight and never before with a female lead. Granted I was not born when Alien/Aliens were released, but we certainly need more of those.

Author Joyce

Best Science Fiction movie I have ever seen. I would give it a 10++! It was very educating, entertaining and intriguing. I found it to also be very mind opening. Morgan Freedman and Scarlett Johansson's best movie yet! It was like we got to see the world the way God sees it… and judging by Lucys failure to contain such power… we all know why God allowed only 10 percent; which still brought people like Einstein and Edison and even King Jr. out! Thank you for this movie

josh

I saw the movie yesterday and I thought that it was pretty decent overall. It's a fact that it's not true that we use only 10% of our brain. It's just one of those urban legends that persevere in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary but nowadays the idea of making movies based on completely BS science has become the norm and that seems to be the way it is. Adapt or die! So in Lucie's case she simple learned to use 1000% of her brain! Here we go! the science is now satisfied!

Abbella

I don't care if some say the science in this film is Preposterous! And it actually is not!! It is mind blowing a lot of action, a lot of thrill, a lot of skill. ,! The cinematography, is pure! The acting is perfection! Scarlet J is the only actress for this film. Morgan f. Reprises his former roles as a amalgamation of Mr fox (wanted) and his narration efforts of March of the penguins, so the casting is spot on! It really works the momentum of this film moves quick and only mildly slow when it needs to explain science to the people who don't understand much about it. That it but that is only in tiny doses so it is perfect. I love the opening how it explains what is happening to Lucy by using quick images of mouse approaching a trap and a antelope being stalked by a pride of cheetah! You get the idea. I think even if you are not a science enthusiast or someone who devourers Documentaries as food, you WILL STILL LOVE THIS FILM!! There are parts in this film that make you nearly run for cover or say oh ..you know what!..! Over and over! See this In Big D ! D Box ! Anywhere there is a big screen and hi def sound YOU WONT REGRET, haven't seen transcendence yet! But it kinda reminds me of that .Scarlett As the J Dep character

muck

I like all of his work and he is just as talented in many ways, and I like her gorgeous pretty shape.

Dear Gabe

Since you broke up with that person, sorry, you got dumped, I know you've been upset.
But, Missing out on Hollywood still upsetting you?

– An Old Friend.

Jason

I think you're only allowed to use the word "fantasia" once.

The Broken Man

You are using nearly 100% of your brains functions as you read these words. 10% is a myth, pure nonsense, easily debunked by actual science.

EB

I believe that, yes, humans use 10% of their brains when they're not applying their minds to anything. We use a higher percentage of our brains when we discover work that is most compatible with our innate abilities, because that's the only way we can. Make sense?

Tyler

Saw this at at screening in New York. It was shit.

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