Every movie has the immediate task of drawing in its audience. Some have absolutely no problem with this feat: the stained glass pulchritude of Beauty and the Beast’s prologue brings you immediately into the fantasy; the prelude to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is some of the most masterful world building of all time; and the peaceful quietude of the beginning to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice is practically perfect in every way, establishing the entire plot in a few wistful moments, while the deliciously beautiful Dario Marianelli/Jean-Yves Thibaudet score plays “Dawn” over the opening credits. Scrumptious!
Lucy, with its cumbrous start, will not be added to that list of motion pictures containing transcendent beginnings. There is, as it turns out, a limit to how much one can stare into Scarlett Johansson’s astrally dreamy eyes, upon her sensually cherubic physiognomy, and wonder what on earth is troubling her so, before one tires of the undertaking and just wishes to move on. Said limit is reached by the end of the film’s opening tête-à-tête, during which Lucy (Johansson) and a man named Richard (Pilou Asbæk) debate the terminus of their night then morning spent together. Having partied chaotically in a bar in Taipei, Taiwan, the two are instantly identified as being in some level of a fresh, perhaps fledgling tryst. Appearing neither to be entirely mistrusted nor entirely trustworthy, Richard and his entanglement with Lucy seem altogether something of which to be wary, thus setting up an immediate conflict from which the story can start.
Their back and forth repartee over her desire to leave and his for her to stay before long grows uncomfortable, as he encourages (and eventually dragoons) her to take up a job he purportedly oft does himself, which is to enter the hotel they happen to be standing alongside, and present a locked suitcase to a man named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) therein. This (reportedly) not being his first time having done this this week, Richard desires her to fulfill the obligation in his stead. This (obviously) not being the first movie ever created, it can generally be taken for granted that Mr. Jang to whom the suitcase is deliverable must be some sort of drug lord or other hardened criminal up to no good, and no real explanation is at first given (or needed).
Before long, Richard throws a handcuff onto Lucy, the other end of which being attached to the suitcase. Whether she likes it or not, she eventually goes along with the deal, his having offered her $500 upfront for doing so and of course the plain matter of her now being literally chained to the newly found responsibility, and so, into the hotel she walks.
What ensues thereafter is a story that leaves viewers with more questions than answers, but perhaps that is what makes it interesting. Lucy gets tied into a drug ring, and after several murders all around her, is under the control of a group of Asian mobsters (and a random snide British guy, known as The Limey (Julian Rhind-Tutt), who essentially seems to show up for English audience translation purposes). They knock her out and insert a large bag of a drugs into her system and intend to use her as a mule to smuggle it out of the country. Unbeknownst to all involved, the bag leaks and the contents causes a reaction within Lucy that allows her further access to more and more of her brain as the film goes on.
The premise builds off the idea that human beings only use about 10% of their brain’s capabilities and there are endless possibilities (like full memory recall; full control over oneself, others, and matter in general; etc.), if the other 90% were to be utilized. The framing structure of the film, as the drug continues to take over Lucy, is to show a numerical percentage of where she’s at in this process of reaching the full 100% potential brain usage.
It is a provocative theory. A university professor named Norman, (played with expected aplomb by the ever-wonderful, melodically-voiced Morgan Freeman), serves as another kind of framing structure to the film—filling in bits and pieces of the general idea throughout. He eventually encounters Lucy to see what has become of one who seems to be living out the theory in reality. Where the film excels is in the moments when Lucy is realizing her potential, accessing memories, and kicking the derrieres of the mobsters who once overtook her. Where it falls short is in the increasing absurdity of the film’s action sequences, as the theory begins to roll in on itself. What most grievously hinders the work as a whole is the almost laughable areas where the CGI of this production just simply cannot measure up to the fantastic work done in the field on films such as the currently in theatres Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or a CGI masterpiece like Avatar. By the end of the film, there is a strange sense of wonderment as to where exactly it went wrong, because for much of it, there is a good steadily flowing buildup that is in itself, exciting to watch. It would seem, though, that after awhile the story and production got away from writer/director Luc Besson, and there is a feeling that he didn’t end up with the final product he may have indeed intended to create.
Overall, the film is for the most part, quite fun. It belies a certain intellectual headiness that it may at first appear to possess, but despite this, the film is not altogether uncongenial. And earthy part-time sidekick/police officer Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), a cop who drives Lucy around for a bit during a few fast and furious car scenes, makes for some grounding moments to a film that can at times overly tend toward the skies of metaphorical illusion. It’s not the top class of its genre, but Lucy does make for a thrilling way to spend its 90-minute run time, if one is looking for some action this summer.