Lucy

August 16, 2014
lucy

“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity,” reads the tag line for Luc Besson’s science fiction thriller, Lucy, “Today she will hit 100%.” It’s tempting to explore some variations on a theme: “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity, but Luc Besson makes motion pictures using only a fraction of this amount.” Or perhaps, “he makes motion pictures for people who use only 5%.”

The box office success of Lucy suggests some very limited brain capacity among today’s audiences. Even by Hollywood’s standards, Lucy is the silliest, most preposterous tale to be arrive in our cinemas this year. It is, however, entirely in character for Besson: creator of a long line of vapid, style-obsessed action movies. From Subway (1985) to the present, he has brought us a stream of eye candy, held together by the thinnest, most absurd plots.

Lucy is the apogee of this process, as the notion of a woman who gets to utilise her entire brain capacity is a licence to include every science fiction cliché known to the cinema. On the way Besson plunders a wide range of  other films, inserting newsreel footage and video clips in long, hysterical montages. Needless to say there are also car chases, martial arts sequences, massive gun battles and buckets of blood.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is an American girl living in Taipei, whose deadbeat boyfriend asks her to deliver a briefcase to a mysterious Mr. Zhang (Choi Min-sik), at a luxury hotel. In no time at all, we’re up in Mr. Zhang’s suite, with a bunch of black-suited Asian gangsters commiting casual atrocities. Lucy is forced to be a drug mule, with a vast quantity of a new chemical narcotic surgically inserted into her body, but before she can get on the plane she is accidentally infected with the drug and becomes Super Lucy.

As she feels her I.Q. steadily rising, Lucy doesn’t waste time filling out the membership forms for Mensa, she decides to inform the world of science what it’s like to be really, really brainy. And who better to share these secrets with, than all-round nice guy and father figure, Morgan Freeman, AKA. Professor Norman. The only problem is that she has not bothered to eliminate the Asian gangsters, who come after her with an arsenal that would make Vladimir Putin blush. French policeman, Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) does his best to fight off this army, but Paris is trashed again.

Lucy, who by this time has more power than Mr. Neutron, can barely be bothered with the gun battles raging on all sides, as she is busy spreading her consciousness throughout space and time.

Besson’s strategy is to keep the action moving so fast that viewers never have a chance to consider all the logical inconsistencies in the plot. Hopefully, Asian audiences won’t pause to ask why all the villains seem to be Chinese or Korean, while the good guys are of European extraction. As Lucy’s cerebral capacity increases she is presumed to be progressively losing touch with human emotions, showing that it’s not good for a woman to be too clever. Perhaps it’s simply that by the end of this film Scarlett has completely given up on the script.

Lucy
Written & directed by Luc Besson
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked
France, rated MA 15+, 89 mins

Published in the Australian Financial Review, Saturday 16th August, 2014.