Director: Luc Besson
Major Players: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Out Of Five: 3
This summer’s blockbuster season has been full of super-heroes – so much so that Marvel has already announced its intention to redress the balance with some female super-hero movies. (Ronda Rousey’s appearance in Stallone’s risible The Expendables 3, nor the stories of the possible Expendabelles spin-off, aren’t worth including in the same breath.) So Universal’s timing for the release of Lucy is pretty much spot on.
It was just as good in the States last month, but for a completely different reason. It shot straight to the top of the box office chart, de-throning Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes in the process. Although I can’t quite see why.
The Lucy of the title (Scarlett Johansson) is plunged into a drugs deal by her dodgy new boyfriend. The dealers offer her a job, of sorts, as a mule and a package of blue crystals is inserted in her stomach but when she’s beaten up the bag bursts and a large quantity of the stuff is released into her system, making her use increasingly large amounts of her brain’s capacity – until she hits 100%.
If the movie’s to be believed, most of us only ever use about 10% – a neat enough conceit but actually more urban legend than scientific fact. Yet it’s given credibility in the shape of the amiable Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), the only person on the planet who understands what’s happening to Lucy. And it also means there’s somebody on hand to explain to the audience what’s going on as she starts to use larger percentages of her brain – travelling backwards and forwards in time, seeking other sources of energy. You get the picture.
This all means that we have some nice, and in some cases, very good visuals – the explosive effects of the crystals on Lucy’s insides, Matrix-style binary codes – to enjoy. Interestingly, director Luc Besson hasn’t followed the crowd and used 3-D: the film is shown in IMAX, but there’s no need for those uncomfortable glasses. It doesn’t lose anything either, as the special effects work just fine.
It’s refreshing to have a woman at the helm of what is essentially an action movie although it’s not as action-packed as some of the others on offer. As played by Johansson, she starts off as feisty, is convincingly scared in the hands of the drugs gang and, once fuelled by the drugs, something closer to robotic – chillingly cold, assertive and completely fearless. Johansson wasn’t the first choice for the role – Angelina Jolie was originally cast and had to drop out – yet the film actually leans heavily on her on-screen presence and physical charms to carry it along. Its other big name, Morgan Freeman, seems to be cornering the market in likeable scientists, something that started off with the Batman trilogy. And he’s doing it here again perfectly competently but, in all honesty, it does look like he’s taking the cheque and running.
Besson keeps the action nice ‘n’ tight, bringing in Lucy at just under 90 minutes and that’s probably about all it’s worth. It just about overcomes its suspect premise with a pacey narrative and some good special effects but the only thing it really brings to the table is a woman in the driving seat. If the studios do deliver on their promised female super-heroes movies, hopefully they won’t have to rely so much on star names in the cast. As it stands, Lucy is a step in the right direction, but little else.
Lucy is released in cinemas nationwide on Friday, 22 August.