Review: Lucy (2014)

Directed by: Luc Besson
Genre: Action / Science-Fiction / Thriller
Released: July 25 2014 (USA) August 22 2014 (UK) by Universal Pictures
Running time: 89 mins (1 hr, 29 mins)
Rated: R (USA) 15 (UK)
Viewed at: Cinema
It was supposed to be a simple job. All Lucy had to do was deliver a mysterious briefcase to Mr. Jang. But immediately Lucy is caught up in a nightmarish deal where she is captured and turned into a drug mule for a new and powerful synthetic drug. When the bag she is carrying inside of her stomach leaks, Lucy’s body undergoes unimaginable changes that unlocks her mind’s full potential 100%. With her new-found powers, Lucy turns into a merciless warrior intent on getting back at her captors. She receives invaluable help from Professor Norman, the leading authority on the human mind, and French police captain Pierre Del Rio.
Before it came out, I hadn’t seen or even heard much about Lucy, but once I actually saw the trailers on TV I gave the summary a read and thought it sounded pretty cool. I’ve always thought that stories about people with psychic powers are interesting, and the idea of Scarlett Johansson being an ass-kicking lady with psychic powers just sounded like the best thing ever. It actually took me two tries to see this film in the cinema (the screen wasn’t working the first time), and this is the first time in a long time (definitely more than two years) that I’ve left the cinema feeling disappointed because this film was just not as good as I was expecting it to be.
Lucy is the story of a young woman who is kidnapped by Korean gangsters after delivering a suitcase of drugs, and is then forced to become a drug mule for their boss. However, she gets beaten and the bag inside of her leaks then then she is able to unlock psychic abilities. With these new abilities, she aims to get revenge on her captors and bring the police to the other drug mules. After that, it gets a bit hard to explain. The story of this film starts out pretty strong and it goes well until we get to the point where there are ten minute action sequences with no dialogue. Another issue I have is that at the beginning of the film, the focus shifts from Lucy to Professor Norman giving a lecture at a Paris university, which is also interspersed with random footage of wildlife, which I’m assuming is used to illustrate all the points that he is making. These scenes with the Professor are where nearly all of the science lies, and I’ll talk more about that below. The end of the film is a bit of an issue for me because it just gets stranger and stranger. I usually like strange stories, but they have to at least make sense rather than just being introduced by a giant percentage that’s flashed up on the screen. Once the film had ended, my initial reaction was just “what”.
My biggest issue with this film is the characterisation, and mainly how Lucy’s character changes three times in the space of either twenty-five minutes or half an hour. At the very beginning of the film, Lucy is a bit sassy and a bit snarky, but once she gets kidnapped she becomes terrified and doesn’t show anything other than that. Now, that’s totally understandable because if I was kidnapped by gangsters and then told I’d become a human drug mule I’d be pretty scared too. Once the drugs leak and she ‘transforms’, Lucy basically becomes a robot. She has one facial expression that has a few flickers every now and then, and speaks in one tone of voice that isn’t completely monotonous but still makes her seem like a robot rather than a human. This really makes me kind of sad because I love Scarlett Johansson and I know for a fact that she can give better performances for better characters than this. The same can be said for Morgan Freeman’s character. It felt like all he did was spout science, and I honestly think that anybody could have played that part and that Freeman was there for two possible reasons: 1) he does the wise old teacher thing so good that it might be becoming his signature role 2) he’s another big name to add to the cast. If I had to be brutally honest, I’d say that I think this film is wasted on the two of them because we all know that they have the ability to play better written characters than this.
I’m quickly becoming a stickler for sci-fi to have actual scientific explanations rather than saying “this happened because science”, and thankfully Lucy does have science in it. A lot of science. This is a good thing, but the way all of the science is set into the story was a bit jarring to me, and I even got a little overwhelmed. We go back and forth from Lucy being a drug mule and trying to get in contact with the police, to Professor Norman giving a lecture on the brain. However, once his lecture is over all the science is almost gone. It felt as if the writers were saying, “we’ve explained how all of this is possible, now here’s the rest of the movie”. Fair enough Lucy does give some scientific explanations herself towards the end of the film, but I actually would have preferred it if it was more evenly spread out than dumped on me in one go because I just got overwhelmed and forgot nearly everything.
Before I conclude, I can finally move on to one good point, which is the special effects. If there’s one thing about French cinema that always stands out to me, it’s how their films look and Lucy looks pretty good. I often have issues with camera work in action films (shakycam is my absolute worst enemy when it comes to camera work), but I didn’t have any of those here because everything moves pretty smoothly. Even in the big car chase scene I didn’t find myself having to look at my knees or the ceiling, and even the CGI looks pretty good. There were a few scenes that use a lot of special effects that I thought looked a little awkward but that may be down to how they were acted, which often leads to the effect looking a bit odd.
Lucy sounds a lot better than it actually is. The story starts out strong and gets weirder and weirder as it progresses, but it’s not exactly boring. I would say that this film is entertaining in some sense, but in every other sense it’s pretty dumb. I might have liked this film a lot more if the plot stayed sensical and the characters were made of flesh and blood rather than cardboard, but hey at least the special effects (and Scarlett) look good.

1 Comment

  1. 20/09/2014 / 5:21 PM

    I actually wanted to see this one when I first saw the previews, but then Dave came home from work one day and said his friend saw it and it was crap so we decided it wasn't worth it. I'm glad we made that decision, because ever since I've only been hearing bad review after bad reviews. It's so sad because it looks like it has such potential! I might check it out if it ever gets on Netflix or something sometime down the line, just to watch Scarlett Johansson kick ass. But yeah, I'm not going to waste money going to theatre just to be disappointed.

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