In mind expanding Sci-Fi actioner by Luc Besson we are asked one question over and over again; what makes us human?
As the eponymous heroine (Scarlett Johansson on terrific form yet again) transforms from abused drug mule to drug enhanced superhero by slowly accessing more and more than the 10% of our brains we can use we see someone slowly transforming from human to something decidedly inhuman. Yet for all the high minded philosophy and mind bending ideas, Lucy becomes a mixed bag of a film. It seems to want to have its Pi and eat it.
At the core is an interesting premise, but unfortunately it never really succeeds in negotiating the ramifications of the smart ideas it so desperately wants to portray. Although Johannsen is fantastic as the ass kicking Lucy, she is surrounded by no end of unnecessary characters only really there to provide some form of context for her situation. We don’t care about the police detective she picks up, nor do we really get to know the expert in the field of whatever flimsy science it is which the film is based around played by Morgan Freeman. He’s there to fill in a few gaps in the knowledge and have some witty lines, but really we’re here to enjoy the fact that Lucy is an enjoyable premise with some pretty cool action sequences.
It’s not common that the only significant criticism of a film is that it tries too hard to engage in high minded topics. There are some interesting moral and ethical conundrums here (Lucy’s disturbing habit to care less about the fate of others as she gains more knowledge and power is an interesting nod to the old adage that power corrupts) but the issue with this is that it fails to adequately tackle those subjects in a satisfying way. More often than not, they simply get in the way of the action scenes. The Matrix is a clear parallel in more ways than one, not only does it have some incredible special effects involving the bending of space and time but it also has those added layers of complexities which make a film truly memorable… Except Lucy is far from memorable because it struggles to really say anything of meaning.
Lucy is a messy film which – despite having a terrific lead performance by Scarlett Johannsen tries – tries too hard to be too many things. Although its attempts at complex ideas are admirable, they are also its undoing. Perhaps this is one occasion when a simple high-concept movie would have been more preferable.