The film of the year it isn't, but as a vehicle for Scarlett Johansson's budding action career, "Lucy" works.
Let’s talk about Lucy. Luc Besson’s latest sci-fi/action/horror/mess has so far been described as anything from unscientific to outlandish to downright laughable. So far critics have decried the plot, interspersed with gratuitous stock footage of hunting cheetahs (no, really) as a “frantic exercise in pseudoscience and goofball metaphysics” (The Chicago Reader). Still, even its worst critics admit that Lucy has its strong points – Scarlett Johansson’s performance being the strongest. Based mostly on her acting, The Telegraph's review goes as far as to call Lucy "the blockbuster of the summer."
If nothing else, Lucy is worth seeing for Scarlett Johansson alone.
According to Den of Geek’s Ryan Lambie, Johansson is “the magnet which holds Besson’s bonkers storyline together. The genre elements may scratch up against one another or sometimes collapse entirely, but Johansson remains a relateable, likeable lead, even when her character does things that go against the grain of a leading lady somewhat.”
Some note that Johansson is underserved by her role. While she delivers a disturbingly realistic performance as a trapped and terrified young woman in Taipei, forced to become a drug mule by the local drug kingpin, her character development just isn’t that impressive to some.
Watch the trailer for Lucy below.
The Verge’s Molly Osberg explains: “But without pain and desire, charm or glory, Lucy makes for a deeply uninteresting lead. When Scarlett Johanssen played an AI she was more human, and if Lucy can’t eke joy out of her superhuman powers, it’s almost impossible for her viewers to. It’s a fact made even more frustrating given Johanssen’s pre-super-drug performance, a genuinely claustrophobic 10 minutes in which the actress’ body seems to physically shrink as she realizes what’s in store for her.”
For his part, Besson defended the more ridiculous bits of his movie in a recent interview for Vulture: “Do they think that I don’t know this? I work on this thing for nine years and they think that I don’t know it’s not true? Of course I know it’s not true!”
He did say, however, that parts of it are true. CPH4, the magical drug that revves up Lucy’s brain, is in fact a real substance. And expecting mothers really do produce it six weeks into the pregnancy. Only the name is changed, for obvious reasons.
Besson also manages to justify most of the film’s not-so-scientific moments. And if viewers can get past those, Lucy generally holds up as a solid, if chaotic action flick with an engaging lead – definitely worth the admission price. Lucy is out in the UK on August 22.