Writer/Director Luc Besson’s newest sci-fi flick, Lucy, is a grim slam at humanity that literally pulls no punches. If there is a body that can be punched (or shot, or smashed), this film makes sure it happens.
In that regard, Lucy plays like an Asian action movie, with typical black humor sprinkled in to leaven the most brutal moments. Thematically, however, its religious message hits with the bleak dismissiveness of Albert Camus or Nietsche: we are all truly one, but that one constitutes nothing, so none of it, even life and death, matters anyway. Kurt Cobain could have made a great song out of that little morning inspirational.
Scarlett Johansson portrays the titular character, who shares the name of Man’s earliest furry ancestor. A dark twist of fate causes Scarlett’s Lucy to undergo an extraordinary transformation comparable to that of proto-Lucy to modern man. That transformation is accomplished via standard science-fiction protocol: a substance that at a low dose sickens or kills a normal human, at a super-dose gives a person superpowers. What that person chooses to do with those powers, of course, depends upon their personality and level of goodness versus evil.
Scarlett’s Lucy is an unknown commodity, so her intentions elevate both interest and anxiety. With no significant background established for her by the film, her reactions and motivations are open to question. Is she good or evil? She attends classes, but also is a wild party girl who dates unsavory, criminal types. She protests recruitment into crime, but is her demur just a negotiating ploy? Only two things are certain: her fear and rage are authentic.
This mystery about Lucy – whether to root for or against her – is at the same time frustrating and intriguing. Fortunately, the film rockets along to carry you with it until the details coalesce and the mystery is solved.
The violence (primary and collateral) along the way is not for the squeamish, and some of the cutaway images feel forced and unnecessary. Over all, though, the storytelling is crisp and efficient, and the acting is on the mark most of the time.
The biggest misstep the film makes is its message that nothing and no one actually matter in this universe – including the characters in the story. Emotions and morality are but temporary crutches on the human evolutionary path. Eventually, humans will evolve into uncaring observers, spiraling through the universe like empty souls spectating at eternity.
Damn, Cobain, such a depressing thought could have inspired an entire album from you.
Check out the movie’s official trailer at