Review: Lucy (2014)

After a series of unfortunate events, Scarlett Johansson's brain gives her limitless powers in the sci-fi yarn Lucy, directed by Luc Beeson.

Luc Beeson’s latest offering, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, had the box office returns to proclaim a comeback for the French auteur. Don’t be fooled – he has followed up the disappointing My Family with an absolute shocker that stylistically wants to be The Matrix but ends up thematically as The Matrix Revolutions.

The warnings were there from the beginning that this could be a worrying ride – having animal footage intercut between scenes to highlight a predator and prey analogy hardly displayed directorial ingenuity. But what is displayed is Johansson’s star appeal. Despite her and Freeman being a level above this existential mumbo-jumbo, her presence at least makes this half-watchable.

It starts with Professor Norman (Freeman) giving a lecture about how we, as humans, use only 10% of our brain capacity (another moment to start suspecting something is off) and what we could achieve if we used more. The answer comes soon enough when Lucy is forced into being a drug mule for a Korean gang in Taiwan, with it being surgically inserted into her stomach. When some of the drug, a new form of synthetic ecstasy, she is carrying splits and enters her bloodstream, she soon realises the potential of using more than 10% of her brain. And it’s something fantastical; controlling people, changing appearance at will, manipulating electronics…and that’s only at 25%.

After contacting the Professor to help with her new-found powers, and with the Korean gang hot on her tail to retrieve the drug (led by Oldboy actor Min-Sik Choi), it is only a matter of time until she manages to attain 100% of her brain power. And this means more than just superhuman abilities.

The ludicrous-sounding plot is exactly that, and bar an excellent car chase around Paris, you have to wonder if Beeson concocted this plot while on drugs. Lucy might as well be summed up as a poor man’s Limitless, and that’s being kind. However, while Limitless remained grounded with its concept of a pill stimulating the full capacity of the brain, attaining X-men-like powers is just plainly absurd. Suspending disbelief for a sci-fi film is one thing, but it’s a step too far to accept that using just over a quarter of your mind can stick someone to the ceiling.

The acting is decent enough, and having a lead as appealing as Johansson means all is not lost. But once this next generation Lucy travels through time to meet our Neanderthal Lucy, we’re left to contemplate what we just did with our lives watching this than how the universe came about.

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