In my tenure as a person ranting, primarily to himself, about movies on the internet, there have been a lot of movies I’ve approached with varying degrees of trepidation or unease, but this is quite possibly the first film I’ve gone into in a long time without any desire to actually see it. Between the time when this movie’s ad campaign began and its actual release, the discussion about it has been completely subsumed with complaints about the irritating ‘humans only use 10 percent of their brain’ myth or the question of whether or not it’s being racist, so that by the time it actually hit, all desire to see it had been completely drained from me.
In fact as I stood in line to buy my ticket, I wound up contemplating whether or not I’d get a stern talking to from my superiors if I just went to see Snowpiercer again and did another rant about how you should go see it. I didn’t want to go see Hercules though; I was a little bored, not completely out of my mind. But regardless of my desire or lack thereof to see it, I did wind up in that theater, and am duty bound to bring you my opinion on it.
The plot is primarily devoted to the titular Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), a college student living in Taiwan. She gets dragged into delivering a briefcase full of a new experimental drug to a Taiwanese drug ring. She is promptly kidnapped, has the drug put in her stomach and is expected to smuggle the drug to…someplace in Europe. It doesn’t matter though, because the bag is ruptured inside her and starts leaking, causing her to…sigh…start to use more than 10 percent of her brain. As her brain begins to expand, she estimates she has roughly 24 hours left before she becomes non-corporeal and decides to use that time to tell Morgan Freeman as…eh, just Morgan Freeman, but technically a scientist, so she can impart all her wisdom before she goes all Star Child.
Okay, before we get to the actual merits of the movie, two things. First off, yes it is kind of irritating that a big budget movie in 2014 is using psuedo-science nonsense as the ‘humans only use 10 percent of their brain’ myth, but you know what, I can overlook that, it’s sci-fi so bad science is just the way it rolls. In fact, I think that the only reason people are getting pissed about it, is it’s right there on the poster, so you really can’t avoid it. Less easy to avoid is the really, really, REALLY awful racial politics that means that there are a total of two Asian characters that aren’t evil to the bone. I wish people were getting angry over nothing, but the degree to which the movie is about casually murdering Asians really started to make me genuinely uncomfortable by the end.
Maybe it would be easier to ignore if the rest of the movie wasn’t so goddamn boring. And it’s the worst kind of boring, in that it’s not badly directed or poorly put together, I just don’t care. Part of it might be some badly done character work; we never get any real glimpse of Lucy’s life before the drug violence, so we don’t get a sense that she has a life that has been disrupted and Johansson plays the character forcefully flat once her powers activate. But there’s also not a lot of tension in the action scenes.
There’s a reason why most movies with a character who has godlike powers either hands them to the villain (Akira) or gives them to the lead towards the end (The Matrix). That’s because when your hero can travel back in time to the beginning of the universe, it’s hard for us to feel that they’re in danger from the gangster with the pistol.
It’s also got some unfortunately poorly defined mechanics. The fact that they never explain why giving her access to 100 percent of her brain (sigh) allows her to be telekenetic is something I can roll with, but they also fail to really explain where the drug came from and why a drug that can do this is being sold by gangsters. And then, there are the really weird moments, like when Lucy’s body starts falling apart for reasons that are incredibly poorly defined.
It also gets really weird at points. The opening few minutes are constantly intercut with nature footage that are tangentially related to what’s happening on screen, which is odd enough already. But then, after about 10 minutes the movie just abandons the idea. Which is a shame because, as odd as it was, it was at least kind of interesting. The entire movie is like that, vaguely interesting ideas, balanced out by inconsistent execution.
The action beats are actually well put together, but the lack of tension keeps me from getting involved. The CGI and editing are pretty solid. The writing isn’t bad, and even spills over into really interesting sometimes, like a sequence right after Lucy gets her powers and she calls her mom up to tell her how much she feels loved (representing the beginning and end of her character development).
Regardless of the racism and the ridiculous myth of the 10 percent of your brain thing, I actually really liked the movie’s overall message, that being that scientific knowledge and understanding are important for humanity. But that, combined with the good action and special effects, just makes it frustrating, because I want to like it, but I honestly can’t.
If all you’ve seen this summer has been Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction, then maybe Lucy will seem pretty awesome. But if you’ve been spoiled by better action movies like Winter Soldier and Snowpiercer (or even just more functional stuff like Edge of Tomorrow) then Lucy will probably disappoint you.
Elessar is a 24 year old Alaskan born cinephile and where the hell was Hawkeye during all of-Oh wait, this isn’t a Marvel movie? Withdrawn.
– good action
– okay CGI
– not a bad script
– not a lot of dramatic involvement
– flat acting
– kind of racist