I like ideas. I support ideas. I want movies to explore ideas both visual and philosophical. I also like action. I support action. I want movies to blow my mind with action either smart or stupid. I even like action and ideas together in the same movie. Give me an Inception or a Terminator 2 with clever action and intriguing ideas. And give me a Die Hard or a Mission: Impossible, short on themes but with awesome action scenes. Just don’t give me Lucy.
Lucy has ideas, and it has action, but neither of them carry much weight. Scarlett Johansson is Lucy, a student in Taiwan, who falls in with a bad dude and ends up a drug mule for a rich businessman. The drug his gang is pushing is a new and blue powder, and their business model is to sew packets of the drug into their mules’ abdomens and send them around the world with fake passports. Lucy gets this treatment, but an accident causes the drug to leak into her blood. And, as so often happens when one overdoses, Lucy starts gaining gradual control of her entire brain.
It’s a ridiculous premise, but an intriguing one. I’d love to watch a movie about someone who uses more than 10% of his or her brain. Think of the potential. A director could explore how that character’s emotions and empathy expand. They could parse through interesting ways the character takes advantage of their growing intelligence. I want to see that movie, and if it happens to have some action in it, all the better. Lucy isn’t that movie.
It’s not spoiling anything to tell you this, because it’s all over the trailer, but Lucy‘s way of handling this premise is to give Lucy telekinesis and the ability to exist outside of time (Sort of- it’s complicated, I think.). Again, it’s a ridiculous premise, and they handle it ridiculously, which would be fine, except director Luc Besson seems to think he’s handling it seriously. Knowing it’s a Luc Besson movie, you expect action scenes choreographed with the precision of a ballet. But nothing about any of the fight scenes or shootouts is creative or stimulating. All the chase scenes and derring-do between the Taiwanese gang and the police play fifth fiddle to Besson’s science-fiction themes, which are neither believable nor fun. You get the feeling Besson’s a doctoral student composing his thesis with a crayon.
I won’t ruin where Lucy ends up going, though part of me wants to do so in order to spare you agony of expecting anything great. Lucy started out frustratingly strong and promising, but as soon as Lucy absorbed the drug into her bloodstream, she basically became a robot, and I lost interest. It’s a waste of Scarlett Johansson’s range not to explore what expanding Lucy’s control of her brain would logically do. There’s a scene in the middle of the film that has Lucy’s cells leaving her body, causing Lucy to begin to disintegrate. It’s one of the worst scenes in the movie, made all the worse by the illogical way Besson decides to resolve it. But watching her cells float off into the air, I thought, there goes the action, there go the ideas.