My wife and I watched Lucy last night, and I don’t know how many brain cells that cost me. But it was a lot. The irony of this movie is that the smarter the main character, Lucy, gets, the dumber the movie becomes. I want to write a coherent, logical, thoughtful review of this movie, but I don’t think . . . what I’m saying is, I’m not sure . . . I can actually . . .
1) It seems suggestive at least that the two biggest money-making directors working in Hollywood right now, Michael Bay and Luc Besson, are both really bad at it. The main difference is that Besson’s films tend be a lot shorter. This is a good thing. And he is better at filming action sequences. The fact that his films don’t make a lick of sense is part of their fun. I will pretty much always go see a Besson film, honestly. Even if it’s nuts.
2) The adjective usually attached to Luc Besson is ‘crazy.’ Google ‘Luc Besson crazy’ and you’ll get 480,000 results. This has clearly not prevented him from making a whole of really popular movies. There’s a formula here: equal parts family values sentimentality + preposterous plotting + over-the-top action sequences, especially car chases, which he loves. Even when they don’t make sense.
3) The ‘family values/sentimental’ moments in Besson films are never even remotely believable, and are often the ickiest parts of the movies. You’d think they were written by a life-long bachelor, but Besson has been married/divorced four times, and has five children. Still, note Liam Neeson’s creepy stalker-ish obsession with his daughter’s dating life with her boyfriend in the Taken movies. Note 3 Days to Kill, with Kevin Costner torturing a guy, but then stopping the torture to ask for parenting advice. Note The Family, where the family values on display are mostly about beating up and torturing French villagers. In Lucy, it’s where 20%-smart Lucy can suddenly remember a cat her family owned when she was one, then tells her mother she can remember the taste of Mom’s breast-milk. I thought this was kind of an odd detail for her to remember. I also thought that most Moms, when a daughter talks about her mind being connected to The Infinite, and how she can see into the structures of cells, and can now remember the taste of breast-milk, would have one immediate and obvious response: “honey, are you on drugs?” Like, all concerned, right? Not this Mom, though. Moms in Besson-ville are insane.
4) The premise of Lucy, BTW, is that Lucy, a college student in Taipei, played by Scarlett Johansson, gets caught up in a drug-running scheme. She’s going to be a mule, transporting a kind of blue powder, which, it turns out, makes you way way smarter, able to use the parts of your brain you’re currently not using. This drug gives Lucy super-powers. Eventually, she becomes God. Sorry about the spoiler; that’s what the plot is. Four minutes in, I knew that was what the plot was going to be. Besson is not a subtle filmmaker.
5) But okay, we Mormons sort of believe that, believe in something like it anyway, men possibly becoming God-like. So we should embrace this movie, should consider it theologically sophisticated, a movie that embraces human divinization. Except we don’t really believe in it like this. We don’t think, for example, that some kind of blue powder is involved.
6) Though I did kind of like the scene where Lucy, now pretty well God-like, meets Australopithecus Lucy, a hairy hominid, and they touch fingertips, just like God and Adam do in the Sistine Chapel painting. I also thought Besson’s T-Rex looked more like an Allosaurus.
7) Lucy should be able to fly. Certainly, when she first takes the blue powder, her body is able to defy gravity. There’s a scene where she needs to get to a lab to meet with Morgan Freeman, and she drives like a madwoman through the streets of Paris, leaving any amount of vehicular carnage behind her. She’s got a French cop (Amr Waked) as a passenger in her car, but he seems completely untroubled by all the lethally crashed cop cars along her car’s path. I understand that, for reasons of the plot, she needed to get to that lab really quickly. But since 20%-smart-Lucy could fly, 60%-smart-Lucy should be able to as well, only probably way better. I darkly suspect that the car chase scene is only in the movie because Luc Besson really likes car chases.
8) What’s with all the Nature channel cutaways? Seriously, how much do you not trust your audience? We see a gang of thugs slowly moving towards Lucy. Cut to wildlife videos of cheetahs closing in on antelope. See, they’re predators! Get it: predators! Or, at one point, Morgan Freeman points out–big revelation here!–that most mammals choose to propagate their own species. Cut to lots of shots of humping hippos and giraffes. We get it, Luc! We know that animals reproduce! We’ve been to zoos!
9) It is not, in fact, true, that human beings use only 10% of their brains, and that we could become super-heroes if we used more of ours. I think it’s unlikely that if we could use more of our brains, we’d be able to levitate bad guys and stick them to ceilings. I don’t think we’d be able to do that.
10) And even supersmart-Lucy can only do stuff like that sometimes. At the end of the film, when lots of good-guy French cops are in a firefight with lots of bad-guy Chinese gangsters, it certainly seems like super-smart-Lucy could do a bit more to help the good guys. Like stick evil Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) to the ceiling, maybe. But she doesn’t. Apparently becoming a God turns you into kind of a dick.
11) Mr. Jang is pretty obviously the devil. At one point, Lucy stabs him in the hands with knives, but this doesn’t prevent him, later in the movie, from trying to kill her, plus all her French cop friends. The bandaged hands are, I think, supposed to be his cloven hoofs, maybe.
12) But, as a bad guy, he makes all sorts of decisions that don’t make sense. Okay, he’s a drug smuggler, with awesome blue powder to sell to American and European markets. But the drug doesn’t make you high, it turns you way way way smarter. Wouldn’t he want to try it? Also, if Lucy’s supposed to be a drug mule, and has a packet of this drug surgically installed in her belly, wouldn’t Mr. Jang tell his henchmen to be super careful not to punch her in the belly?
13) I’ll say this, though; I was entertained. It was an idiotic movie, but I did enjoy it. Scarlett Johansson is very good in it, as is Choi, as is Waked. No complaints about the acting. The story is silly, but it’s a Luc Besson film; they’re always silly. The dude’s written 56 feature films, produced over a hundred, directed 21. Fifth Element? The Transporter? Brick Mansions? They’re pretty much always at least watchable, and even sort of fun, if you take the precaution of turning off your brain, along with your cell phone, upon entering the theater.
14) I think Lucy‘s supposed to be his masterpiece, though. I think this is what passes for profound in Bessoniana. Ouch.