The next time I sit down, determined to write good science fiction but floundering with a plausible concept, I’ll think of Lucy and remember that a simple premise yields the best results.
So, if you have a problem with Luc Besson’s sci-fi funfest relying on the myth we only use 10 percent of our brains (as many seem to) then I have a problem with you. I don’t know what to say to you, other than to tell you that you are a humorless person with a stodgily narrow view of art. There’s a reason it’s called science fiction. This isn’t the Discovery Channel, folks.
Beautifully edited with great acting and a witty script, Lucy is some of Besson’s best work. Scarlett Johansson is flawless, navigating life after CPH4 infusion (the Taiwanese cartel’s wonder-drug) with a numbed bluntness that presumably comes after one supersedes previously limited cranial capacity. Far too transcendent for basic social niceties, Johansson adopts a dry deadpan that brings moments of humor into an otherwise tense and wackily cerebral film. Morgan Freeman is perfect here too, as the kindly and unassuming professor who takes his new research subject’s incredible capabilities in impressive stride.
And so does everyone, really. There are echoes of The Fifth Element in Lucy. Besson’s ability to create a universe that is comfortable in its own bizarreness shows again, as each person who encounters Lucy does maybe one double-take before simply accepting that yes, she can move things with her mind. The movie doesn’t humor superfluous explanation; it plays a bit fast and loose, challenging its audience to keep up with what’s happening. It takes about fifteen minutes for the movie to get into gear; at a cool hour and a half, no time is squandered.
It’s not clean action though—Lucy gets meditative, and some of Johansson’s monologues sound suspiciously like Jaden Smith on a psychedelic drug fueled tangent. But it’s engaging rather than corny. “Life was given to us a billion years ago,” Lucy muses in a voice-over that opens the film. “What have we done with it?” The question gnaws at you—if, somehow, humankind taps into the entirety of the world’s knowledge, what will we have to work toward?
Besson chooses not to answer the question, nor does he harp on it with pointless exposition. He instead adopts a show-not-tell attitude. The intercuts of clips of animals in the wild, early hominids, modern human societies, and cells merging and separating creates a universal effect that lends weight to the piece.
Perhaps the dreamy span of earthly existence is a bit heavy-handed, but in a sincere way that doesn’t feel condescending or basic. Seemingly inspired by Terrence Malick’s ambitious metaphysical experiment with Tree Of Life, Lucy is free of the pretention that clouds Malick’s piece. Besson does not lecture the audience. He allows us to enjoy the ride alongside Lucy.
And when the ride includes Scarlett Johansson kicking ass, stopping time, and delivering delightfully ironic one-liners with a wonderfully flat affect, why would you hesitate to strap in?