Lucy is not your usual cinematic experience. The film comes across as an experimental amalgamation of several big-screen effects that unfortunately do not quite work together on the big-screen. Images of hunted prey are interspersed with the opening scene, an obvious attempt to create tension and highlight the similarities between humans and animals but adding nothing to the story itself. With much of it’s short 90-minute running time made up of clips of magicians and wildlife there is little time for real plot progression.
The idea that Lucy explores is undeniably intriguing. A new experimental drug allows a young woman, the titular Lucy (Scarlett Johannson), to access previously unused areas of her cerebral cortex. Lucy is kidnapped and used as a mule (for a typically violent Korean drug lord) holding a pouch of blue powder unwillingly inside her stomach. Whilst viciously attacked by one of her captors the bag leaks and before long the effects of this drug on Lucy become apparent as she accesses more and more of her brain capacity. Lucy develops superhero-like powers including the ability to control others and objects and while some of these powers are visually enticing others, including some of the later game-changing twists, seem to be included purely for the sake of meeting a quota for big budget CGI shots.
The action is incredibly fast-paced and does not waste time with character introductions or explorations which is, in ways, very refreshing. Johansson’s performance is the main redeeming aspect of the film, both convincing and coherent as a good example of a strong female protagonist with glimpses of a fading emotional spectrum as events progress. This development proves to be Lucy’s greatest undoing as the plot becomes increasingly unemotional making it difficult to actually care about the characters. As a result the latter half of the film gradually descends incomprehensible and unnecessary science fiction nonsense. Close-up facial shots that pervade the action incite a dramatic and personal experience that the Lucy just does not deliver. As Lucy continues to unlock her mental capacity she gradually loses whatever humanity she exhibited previously leaving it unclear what, if any, message is intended.
Where this film succeeds ideologically it is let down by its lack of emotiona; resonance and uninspiring plot. The story is given purpose by the brain percentage indication throughout but it still needs more coherence to capture an audience who were expecting a radical science fiction film grounded by action. But although not what you might expect Lucy still merits a watch as Johansson’s performance and the central premise combine to provide a thought-provoking attempt at a female superhero tale.
Not without its faults, Lucy is an interesting idea tethered by a strong lead performance that might not be satisfying but is at least interesting.