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Tuesday, September 2, 2014


It's probably not even 10% scientifically accurate but this bonkers, high-octane sci-fi flick is still easily worth your time. 

Lucy marks the third arty science fiction movie of the year to feature the prodigious talents of Scarlett Johansson (and, come to think of it, if you also factor in the espionage-superheroics of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there's even less place to doubt that Ms. Johansson is pretty clearly the reigning queen of genre cinema) and, though Lucy is certainly more low-brow than either Her or Under The Skin, it actually compliments both films quite brilliantly. Even more importantly, Lucy is the genuine, long-awaited return of maverick filmmaker, Luc Besson.

Not that Besson himself has been away, you understand, it's just that generic thrillers like Taken and austere biopics like The Lady are a far cry from the sort of deranged, audacious genre films on which he made his name. Lucy is very much the Besson of Leon: The Professional and the Fifth Element but with a new existentialist drive that brings to mind everyone from Kubrick (via Arthur C. Clarke) to The Wachowskis.

The basic plot of Lucy is somewhat convoluted, completely preposterous and it goes something like this...

Lucy (as played by Scarlett Johansson, as you may well have guessed), is a young student living and studying in Thailand but her carefree, partying life-style is quickly shattered as she is forced to become an unwilling drug-mule by a group of seriously shady Korean underworld-types, who implant a bag of a new and highly explosive illicit drug in her intestines for her to transplant across international lines. The drug in question is synthetic CPH4, the (fictionalized name of the real) molecule that pregnant women develop in their sixth week of pregnancy that is essential to the cognitive development of a fetus - but is crucially administered in microscopic amounts.

When Lucy, mid-transit, gets a swift beating by yet another shady Asian-type (it's just as well that Besson is a well-known fan of all things Asian or this film would raise some pretty serious alarms) that results in some 500 grams of the stuff rupturing directly into her system, however, the true power of the drug is unleashed. Unlocking the full potential of her mind, Lucy goes from using the 10% of her cerebral capabilities that is usual for most humans to finally making use of the entirety of her grey matter in the final moments of the film. This, of course, results in her transforming from hapless victim to kickass superhuman hellbent on revenge to someone, or something, that can manipulate time and space.

Now, as you may have noticed, Lucy has an absolutely ridiculous plot and is based on some seriously laughable science - a fact that has apparently never been lost on the film's writer/ director. Besson has admitted in seemingly every interview he has done to promote the film that he understands that the whole idea of humans only using 10% of their brains was disproved ages ago and that just about all of the "science" in the film is far closer to fantasy than anything else, but that these scientific fallacies were something on which he could base a scifi action flick that may also happen to touch on a number of philosophical ideas.

As such, while I suppose you can get lost in picking apart the logical flaws and scientific misinformation in the film, to do so would be to miss the real pleasures of Lucy - in all its nutty, audacious and pop-philosophical glory.

Taken, first of all, as a basic action thriller, Lucy succeeds admirably, as it is every bit as pacey, thrilling and often quite tense as it needs to be, with a typically terrific central performance by Scarlett Johansson, a menacingly villainous turn by (the original) Oldboy's Min-Sik Choy and some wonderfully over the top action scenes. And, at less than ninety-minutes, it also never lets up for a second.

As a pop-philosophical fantasy though, it's even better. Like many science fiction works before it - most especially by people like Arthur C Clarke and Philip K Dick - Lucy isn't really interested in the capacity of the human mind, as much as it is in exploring both the inter-connectedness and pliability of reality, while touching on human evolution as well. Brilliantly, it entirely avoids ponderousness by coating it in a populist scifi/ action movie and nothing this unapologetically insane could ever be called pretentious.

So, yes, it's silly; yes, it's very flawed and yes, it will probably have scientists in fits of hysterical laughter but Lucy is also highly entertaining and highly singular and is unapologetic in its audaciousness, in its ambition and in its manic unwillingness to play it safe or even, for that matter, sane,


1 comment:

  1. Looks like one for the boys in my family.