I’m sorry Luc Besson, but I am about to rip your movie apart. However, I will start by commending you on your directing, which is what keeps me from asking for a refund. The visuals, stunts, and acting were worthy of a film of this magnitude, but I’m afraid the story did not live up to its potential.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is studying abroad in Taiwan. Her boyfriend forces her to deliver a case to some drug dealers who then kidnap her, surgically implant the drugs in her stomach, and order her to transport them to the United States. Before she leaves the city, she is kicked in the stomach by one of the guards, which releases the drug into her system. The drug, CPH4, is a synthetic version of the substance in the womb that accelerates the mitotic process of cells in infants. The large dose that Lucy receives allows her brain to make infinitely more connections and she develops superhuman powers.
So far so good, right?
The film from here tried to go in two different directions at once. One direction was a philosophical exploration of human evolutionary potential. The other direction was a kickass action movie. Either one of these would have been amazing, but the combination of the two left the science horribly lacking and the action more of an unnecessary distraction.
Instead of writing a 30-page thesis on how awful the story was, I will share just a few highlights:
(1) The entire film depends on the assumption that humans only use 10% of their brain’s capability, which is a myth that has perpetuated and needs to be stopped. I’ll spare you further comment on the rest of the “science” in the movie.
(2) Lucy kills a patient in the operating room because she “read” the MRI and determined he was a dead man anyway, yet she had to ask the surgeon what the hell CPH4 was. It wasn’t until later that she pulled a Leeloo Dallas, Multipass (by the way Besson was writer of The Fifth Element) and used the Internet to gain knowledge about the world.
(3) Lucy could have easily killed or incapacitated all of the drug dealers (with a flick of her wrist, no less) who were chasing her—by the time she reached 30% brain capacity, they should never have been an issue. Also, she stabbed Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), the main bad guy, in the hands. There is no way he can hold a gun after that. Really??
(4) Morgan Freeman’s character is horribly limited and that is an affront to his skills as an actor. He portrays Professor Norman, a supposedly brilliant neuroscientist who does nothing more than lecture on brain capacity (driving the plot) and standing around looking stunned while Lucy performs magic tricks.
(5) One of the first lines in the film speaks about what we humans have done with just 10% of brain capacity, yet it’s incredibly vague what knowledge Lucy passes on to the scientists during her 100% state. Would the world even survive if people were able to control other humans or matter or time travel? Could we even comprehend what knowledge she gained, or would we need the drugs to understand? How did she come across said knowledge if she only had the internet (created by those of the 10% persuasion)—does 100% just make you all-knowing? And by the way, she used up all of the drugs. How are they going to make more? What happened to the weird British guy that made them? Stop. Breathe.
I feel disappointed that Besson failed Scarlett Johansson, who was at her absolute best. The suspension of disbelief in Lucy was absurd. The constant questions that kept popping into my mind were only minimalized by the surreal visual sequences likened to an episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The scene in which she side-swipes time in Times Square will forever be one of my favorites.
My advice, if you choose to see Lucy anyway, is to have low expectations and just enjoy the ride. Don’t think too much about it.