A review by Nalini Haynes
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Watch this if you enjoyed: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Lucy combines drug running, drug use, evolution – including explicit animal sex and not-so-explicit human sex – with Matrix-like moves in an attempt to be the hard-SF movie of 2014.
Lucy is in Taipei with her new boyfriend Richard who wants her to carry a locked metal briefcase in to a hotel to meet a guy. Lucy is smart enough to distrust Richard but too slow to escape his trap: Richard handcuffs the briefcase to Lucy’s wrist.
Terrified, Lucy walks up to the concierge desk and asks for Mr Jang (Min-sik Choi) as per Richard’s instructions. While she waits for Jang, Lucy sees Richard standing outside a full-length window, dancing, urging her on – then dying from a gunshot wound. (‘Guns don’t kill people – blood loss and organ damage does!’ Thanks, Nightvale.)
Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) lectures a hall of middle-aged professionals on evolution and human brain function. It’s a pity his ‘expertise’ was trapped in mid-twentieth century myth; this was, in my opinion, one of Lucy’s biggest downfalls. We’re told – time and time again – that human beings only use 10% of their brain. Norman hypothesises on what would happen if humans acquired greater cranial capacity.
Several Asians emerge from an elevator, forming an escort while two grab Lucy’s arms, frog-marching her in to Jang’s suite. A tense scene ends with the suitcase open – and Jang offering Lucy a job. Which involves surgery.
Lucy’s early story evoked 2001: A Space Odyssey and a lot of mid-twentieth century science fiction. As soon as Lucy’s involuntary surgery is revealed, I thought ‘Friday!’ (by Robert Heinlein.) As Lucy acquires increased brain function, the Matrix comes to the fore and the minion thought of Babylon 5 ‘Mind War’. The minion suggested that Lucy is like David Attenborough waking up in the Matrix. Not an unreasonable comparison, especially as the machines rewrote human history for the Matrix. Here the writer rewrote scientific history.
Protip: if you want to write a hard-SF story, get your science right. Surely if they could afford Scarlett Johanssen and Morgan Freeman, they could afford a few scientific advisors to help rewrite the science?
Early on, Norman’s lecturing ran a little long. I was like ‘It’s Morgan Freeman!’ The minion said he was frustrated because the lecturing ran overly long while he wanted to get back to the plot. The lecturing could have succeeded in foreshadowing and being all intellectual-like AND been considerably shorter. But, hey, Morgan Freeman. I totally understand.[The minion is looking out of the train window while I type this, so it’s all cool.]
Late in the movie there were ‘stretches’ in the sense of stretching moments at a point of high tension. I’m not sure if my conscious analysis of this was a reflection of the story being a bit too slow or just a reflection of having come straight from fiction-writing class at university.
Amazingly, Lucy passes the Bechdel Test. My guess is, the writer said ‘Hey, there’s this test, how do I pass it?’ and did a leetle bit more than the minimum to pass it. Lucy and her flatmate Caroline have a conversation. Women even feature in Norman’s lecture hall and in street scenes. Lucy is the only woman drug mule while most of the guy mules look suspicious. (I’d search them if I was in the drug squad!) And Not. One. woman was in Norman’s group of top neuroscientists.
The special effects were well done but really over the top in the climax. Seriously. I can’t say more without completely spoiling the climax but David Bowman eat your heart out.
Lucy won’t be a box office blockbuster. It’s a movie aiming at the intelligentsia and the science fiction crowd, definitely for those who enjoy non-Hollywood movies. As Trollhunter was to Cloverfield, so Lucy is to much of Hollywood’s ‘science fiction’ movies. I recommend Lucy to the geeks. You have to watch Lucy so you can debate it, love it, hate it, whatever. Anyone who is anyone in the science fiction community will have an opinion on Lucy, it’s almost guaranteed.
Be quick if you want to see Lucy in the cinema; it’s at IMAX for one week only and it won’t be in regular cinemas long. The SFX are very nice on the IMAX big screen (in 2D). Thanks, IMAX, for review tix.