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'Lucy' review: Cinematic brain damage



"Lucy" begins its theatrical run across the country starting today.

Scarlett Johansson as Lucy.
Scarlett Johansson as Lucy.
Photo courtesy of Universal pictures, used with permission.
The official theatrical poster for "Lucy."
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures, used with permission.

An American college student named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is studying in Korea when she's dragged into a shady business deal by her new boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbaek). Handcuffed to a briefcase filled with a mysterious blue drug known as CPH4, Lucy is forced to work for a drug dealer and crime lord named Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). Lucy's brain expands to unbelievable realms once she wakes up in Paris and the bag of CPH4 inside of her stomach begins to leak into her bloodstream.

Despite being capable of superhuman abilities and having an unbelievable amount of knowledge, Lucy realizes that edging toward using 100% of her brain will eventually kill her. She turns to the one man who's developed a theory of using your entire brain capacity and has research dating back 20 years; Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).

You will never shake the fact that "Lucy" is a borrowed concept from films like "Limitless" and "Transcendence" and anime classics like "Akira." You're already off to a bad start if the film has you mentally tallying the number of films it reminds you of before it even begins. The sci-fi action film begins with a ridiculous amount of stock footage that is mostly used to illustrate a defenseless animal being lured as prey into its predator's trap. It's a bit unnecessary since it's all rather elementary.

The story has a fascination with the past. Lucy references "life beginning a billion years ago" more than once. Is it to understand where we came from? Is Lucy trying to comprehend the meaning of life and or all of existence? This is never made clear. When Lucy originally contacts Professor Norman for the first time he recommends that she share her knowledge and to pass it on. Along with more stock footage of animal births, the film seems to be hinting that Lucy will mate with someone before the end of the film to pass on what she's learned. That never happens.

Instead Lucy begins gaining all of these abilities; manipulating cell phone signals, magnetism, understanding foreign languages, how to use firearms, memories from when she was first born, and feeling everything in and around her. But why does she gain these powers solely from unlocking the full potential of her brain? Being able to learn at a faster pace or having photographic memory would be more plausible, but telekinesis, levitation, and controlling time are abilities even the X-Men would be envious of.

The film has a fairly strong opening as the first 20 minutes or so are fascinating, but around the time the camera develops a love affair for the back of Morgan Freeman's head is the time it starts to go downhill. Scarlett Johansson shows little to no emotion as her knowledge grows and it makes everything feel so stale. Flopping around on the ceiling and floundering about like a wind sock stuck in a tornado isn't going to win anyone over either.

As Lucy's body degenerates, she apparently turns into nothing but rays of light and rainbow sprinkles. The higher her brain power gets the more absurd her powers become. A group of scientists who have studied this theory for who knows how long can't make sense of it and yet Morgan Freeman can almost immediately for no reason at all. Lucy fails to make sense of any of the ideas it presents.

Luc Besson has written and directed a ton of films over the past few years that are preposterous in concept, poorly written, and generic in absolutely every way. You can usually expect a few things from a Luc Besson film including a woman with guns, a villain involved with a criminal background, a destructive yet nonsensical car chase, and outrageous action. "Lucy" follows this formula religiously.

"Lucy" has very little to enjoy throughout an hour and a half of excessive foolishness. Ludicrous and atrocious in nearly every way, "Lucy" is absolutely brainless; which is quite ironic given the concept of the film.

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