Sunday, August 03, 2014
I doubt I'll see a stranger movie this year than Luc Besson's Lucy, a hybrid of action film and EPCOT Center exhibit in which Scarlett Johansson is cast as the avatar of human possibility. Johansson plays Lucy, an American student in Taipei whose bad choice in boyfriends leads to her crossing the path of a drug lord named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Jang implants packets of a synthetic drug called CPH4 inside Lucy and some other unlucky mules, but when Lucy is assaulted by a low-level thug the package breaks and the drug gets into her bloodstream. CPH4 gradually unlocks the 90% percent of Lucy's brain that she, like other humans, "doesn't use". The rest of the movie follows Lucy towards 100% brain power and what we're told will be the next stage of human evolution.
One of the many hilarious things about Lucy is its self-seriousness; there's a long set-up involving a professor (Morgan Freeman) lecturing on what a human with increased brain power would be able to do - a good deal of telekinesis - and the drawn-out ending is offered as a lesson to us ordinary humans that the path to enlightenment lies through learning. We never really see Lucy learn anything though, except for what's needed to move the plot ahead. Johansson does her best and is probably ideal casting for this role, she plays it with just the right mix of kick-ass energy and humor. Besson's script doesn't do her any favors though; Johansson is saddled with some ponderous speeches ("Sounds are music I can understand.") and an ending that turns her into a special effect. I can't in good conscience recommend Lucy as "good" by any objective standard, but I do love the way the movie gets off on its own weirdness and how Scarlett Johansson throws in and plays along.