Lucy is a science-fiction action film directed by Luc Besson. It stars Scarlett Johansson as the title character and Morgan Freeman as Prof. Norman.
The film opens with starring credits of the movie mixed with images of cells dividing. It then switches to a narration of the development of intelligence with the image of a neanderthal (it eventually makes sense in context) and cuts to Thailand. Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) and her recently acquired boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbaek) meet in front of a hotel building. Richard desperately tries to convince Lucy to go inside the building and drop off a locked suitcase since he’s not allowed in the building. Lucy is eventually forced to drop off the suitcase when Richard handcuffs it to her wrist. Upon entering the building and announcing the drop-off, Richard gets shot outside the hotel and Lucy is picked up and taken to a suite in the hotel. A frightened Lucy goes through the motions of a hostile interrogation and eventually opens the suitcase to find plastic pouches filled with drugs in the form of a blue powder. Her captor, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) calmly offers her a job which she fearfully refuses. She is then knocked out.
“Note to self: no more partying in Taiwan.”
Interspersed through the next scene, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is holding a lecture at a college hall regarding the capacity of the brain. Organisms have had thought for hundreds of thousands of years, and that intelligence is either sustained through immortality or reproduction. He explains that the brain caps off at about 5% of thought capacity for non-human animals (more on this later) and humans working off of 10% capacity. He goes on to theorize that when the brain operates at 20% capacity, information can be learned and utilized almost instantaneously as well as enhanced perceptive abilities, such as advanced hearing or a natural sense of sonar. Further super-human abilities are theorized at 40% capacity, 50%, and so on. When asked what would happen at peak thought capacity, the professor admits he hasn’t any idea.
We’d expect you to know, guy-who’s-played-God.
Lucy wakes up a quarter-dressed with a bandage over her belly. She is taken back to Mr. Jang’s suite and a Limey (Julian Rhind-Tutt, and yes, that’s his movie credit) tells her she’s been employed to be a drug mule for a new drug to be sold to British teens. She and a few other mules are given passports and tickets to various locations. After a moment of resistance, Lucy gets kicked in the stomach and the drug leaks into her system. She gains superhuman abilities from her brain gets stimulated from the drug leaking into her bloodstream. She gets information from a hospital that the drug is a synthetic version of a hormone produced by pregnant women that kickstarts brain development. She learns to focus her abilities, establishing memories from her early development and further improvements to her perception.
The film’s entire premise is the idea that humans are only able to tap into 10% of their brain’s cognitive capacity. This has been proven false numerous times. That doesn’t stop movies and other forms of entertainment to perpetuate this myth. For everyone who already knows this, you have to separate yourself from the fact if you hope to enjoy the movie. Director Luc Besson acknowledges that the premise is flawed and continues with the film anyway, citing it as a “What If?” scenario.
Spoiler alert: Gets killed and eyeballs stolen.
The film clocks in at just under an hour and a half, and I can tell you that there are bits and pieces of scenes and entire characters that pad the film to get to that time stamp. The first act of the film will occasionally splice scenes of animals in various situations to reflect the current scene. For example, Richard trying to coerce Lucy to deliver the suitcase has a moment of a mouse examining a mouse trap with a piece of cheese on the trigger. In the context of animal brain capacity compared to a human, this could make sense. I saw it as being incredibly on the nose and a lousy attempt for a movie that already has a somewhat philosophical message. As for superfluous characters, at least Richard sets up a reason for Lucy to get kidnapped, although it was a shoddy attempt to do so. The Limey briefly appears after Lucy’s “surgery” and only serves as an exposition for the drug she’s carrying, then leaves without any rhyme or reason. He’s not the drug’s distributor (Jang is implied to put the drugs in the mules himself) nor collector when the mules are supposed to arrive at their destination. He just tells Lucy (and by extension, the audience) what the drug is. Finally, we have Lucy’s roommate (Analeigh Tipton) who provides no new information pertinent to the plot or to Lucy’s development. She only mentions a guy she met at a party (that never appears onscreen), the fact that they haven’t been in Taiwan for very long (which is implied, Lucy didn’t understand the native language at the start of the movie), and that Lucy has been dating Richard for a short time (which is implied from the exchange between Lucy and Richard).
This next part may contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Lucy’s point of no return becomes apparent when she’s on the plane to see Professor Norman. She making good use of her abilities, altering her appearance and operating two different laptops at incredible speed, presumably gathering information. Her body goes through a degradation during the plane’s descent. She locks herself in the plane lavatory and consumes a large amount of the drug that caused her transformation. I thought at this point she stops being the hero and becomes more of an anti-hero protagonist. This ends up not directly being the case. Her rapid acceleration of intellect leaves her devoid of emotion and pain, but her intention is still for the progression of human intellect.
Plot: 6/10 (A woman develops superhuman abilities after an experimental drug is absorbed into her system)
Characters: 5/10 (Only a handful of characters are fully developed, while a few others could be left out entirely)
Language: 10/10 (Smart-sounding language pertinent to cognitive study, and a bilingual bonus for Taiwanese and French)
Theme: 7/10 (Advancement of the human, the philosophy of being, human-animal similarity)
Music: 7/10 (Mostly music to tense the audience for chases and dramatic moments, as well as a handful of licensed music)
Spectacle: 7/10 (Interesting visuals, though the final manifestation of Lucy’s intellect is poorly done)
Star Power: 6/10 (Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman at the forefront, Min-sik Choi as the antagonist and resident, “it’s that guy” in the film)
Who to watch with: 6/10 (Fans of an Action Scarlett will like this, minus a few points for those familiar with the 10% brain function as a myth)
Post-movie thought: 5/10 (Much of the first act’s animal-spliced scenes were unnecessary and on the nose to the point of being insulting)
Humans only use 10% of their brains: 5/10 (Untrue in real-life, but executed well enough in-universe to make the movie work)