Lucy: 3 out of 10

The trailer for Lucy that came out a few months ago was fun, at least the first time I saw it. The action looked sharp and stylish, the story seemed cheerfully bare-bones and perfunctory, and Luc Besson's direction and Scarlett Johansson's acting are generally joys to watch. The main downside was the focus on the "humans use only 10% of the human brain" myth, which grated like nails on a chalkboard; but I could still get behind it, if only that part was only being played up in the trailers.

Sadly, the trailer was not exaggerating. The movie really, truly commits to the 10% thing, and extrapolates it all the way up to transcendence and transubstantiation. And this plot contrivance undermines the story, with the story undermining the plot as well. All we're left with is some occasional nice action scenes and some good acting by Scarlet Johansson.

The general plot of the movie: Lucy (Johansson) is turned into an unwitting drug mule for an experimental drug. When the bag of drugs is broken while still inside of her, she gets super powers and starts to transcend. While mourning the loss of her humanity, she then tries to get more of the drug so that she can further transcend. Also, there are bad guys that are generally good at blowing things up that act as mere annoyances to Lucy. Lucy succeeds at transcending. Cue 2001 space baby.

To me, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable plot to an animated movie with about ten lines of subtitled dialogue. There's no real need to explain what's going on here, and any explanation will by necessity cut into the trippiness of the high concept by forcing us to answer questions that we shouldn't have needed to articulate in the first place.

Unfortunately, Besson wanted to focus on that explanation. As such, he cast Morgan Freeman as a professor that specializes in human brain studies (psychologist? Biologist? I don't think we were told), and Freeman proceeds to explain Besson's thesis in detail. Humanity only uses 10-15% of its brain; dolphins use 20%, and that's how they can do echo-location; if we used more than that, we would be able to control our own bodies, the bodies of others, matter, energy, etc, each associated with a specific 5% mark. This all gets tied into evolution and immortal cells and information transfer and other pseudo-science.

By casting Freeman, Besson was forced to use him. And so we end up with the major sub-plot of the film, which involves Lucy coming to Paris to see him for, err, some reason. This ties into a bunch of other silly premises involving the other drug mules, the remarkably-determined bad guys, and something involving Lucy's need for exactly four bags of the drug (no more, no less), coincidentally the number of bags already shown on screen!

This sub-plot serves to undermine the otherwise-straightforward story. Conversely, the story undermines the sub-plot, which probably could have worked out if it wasn't in the service of a trippy action movie.

How about the action? At least some of the individual scenes were pretty and well-directed in isolation, including Lucy's break-out from captivity, the car-chase scene, and the start of the Bad Guy's final assault; but only the first of those scenes really fit into the story, and only the last one fit into the plot. (The car chase scene could have been excised from the movie without effecting either one, but it was at least striking!). But most of the action was fairly forgettable, especially compared to the trippy scenes happening around the action.

All in all, this whole movie felt half-formed and unfocused. I wish that Besson had committed to one type of movie or another, so that we might have ended up with something more interesting than a stylized mess.

Rating: 3 (out of 10)

By the way:

Trailer Thoughts:

The next few months do not look good. The "highlight" trailer was for 50 Shades of Grey, which just looked terrible in all ways. Other listed movies included November Man, a spy thriller with a former James Bond protecting a former Bond Girl in a small black dress; Dracula Untold, a faux-deconstruction of the Dracula origin myth starring Bard the Bowman; The Judge, attempted Oscar-bait where Iron Man the Evil Defense Attorney must protect his estranged father (Robert Duval) from charges of vehicular murder; and No Good Deed, an Idris Elba home invasion movie that sets off my 'racist' alarm something fierce.

On the other hand, I do want to see Interstellar, because you probably can't go too wrong with Christopher Nolan doing sci-fi; the hated trailer-for-going-the-movies was for Guardians of the Galaxy, which looks like it's going to be lots of fun; and Kingsman: the Secret Service looks like it may understand the style-above-substance problem better than Lucy, at least. So the trailers weren't a complete loss (though I think it's safe to say that eight trailers is too many).