[Warning: spoilers for people who haven’t seen the trailers.] Through the magic of a Meetup group and the folks at SciFiCommons.com, I had the chance to take a break from all the craziness of the Zeus Is Dead launch and see an advance screening of Luc Besson’s new sci-fi flick Lucy. I’m still trying to figure out just how to talk about this film, to which I was really looking forward, based on the trailers. I suppose I’ll start with the short version:
I do not mean this in a good way. Of all the things I’m trying to put into words about this movie, “I don’t recommend it” is probably the clearest. I’m sorry, Luc Besson, I really liked The 5th Element, but this? Lucy just doesn’t work. It’s like a drunken 14 year-old wrote the screenplay after seeing 2001 and Akira. And maybe The Matrix. There is a general consensus on and off the Internet that anything read in Morgan Freeman’s voice sounds good. I thought it was true, myself. (You’re reading this in his voice right now, aren’t you?)
Some (not all, admittedly, but some) of the dialogue in Lucy proves this wrong.
It’s not even that the movie trots out that teeth-gnashing misconception that human beings only use 10% of our brains. It really isn’t.
Sci-fi writers (especially in movies and TV – I can recall it used a number of times on Stargate SG-1 for example) love to play around in that supposed 90%. Going in, I knew the movie was using this, so I was prepared to just let the movie have it and see where it went. Yet the way Lucy presents it is just so hokey, both in the dialogue and the percentages shown on screen, that I couldn’t quite get around it.
This is not to say all of the movie is bad. It’s a good, cyberpunkish story that doesn’t really start to go wrong until Lucy gets the drugs into her system. After that, I prefer to view the rest of the film as an extended drug trip on the part of the main character. But a film that makes you hope for the “it was all a dream” ending is doing something wrong. Soon after Lucy gets dosed, she effectively becomes invulnerable, and there’s zero jeopardy. Yes, she might very well die within 24 hours, but she doesn’t seem to be all that bothered by this, so I wasn’t either. Nothing is at stake.
That’s not Scarlett Johannson’s fault, by the way. Before the drug turns her into a zen Vulcan, she does a spectacular job. But then the plot requires her to shut that off.
The film did have potential. Somewhere in there was a character story about Lucy’s struggle to hold onto her humanity as her brain allows her to transcend reality, bend time, and violate the laws of thermodynamics. There are one or two beats (the call to her mom, the kiss) that hint at either a trimmed or underdeveloped subplot. What is there isn’t enough. And, incidentally, why does sci-fi always seem to portray increased intelligence as causing emotional detachment? Wouldn’t creativity, empathy, and compassion be increased as well? (Or, at least, can’t someone give us a version of this sort of thing where such traits are increased, just for variety?)
I really hoped this movie would be better. Early on, I was getting a nice Deus Ex vibe. I’m sorry to say that didn’t last.
I felt bad for the cabbie she shot because he couldn’t speak English. In his own country. Darned ugly American tourists. 😉