In the new sci-fi flick Lucy — released today — Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, “a woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turning the tables on her captors and transforming into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.” Directed by Luc Besson and co-starring Morgan Freeman, Lucy starts off red hot, but cools off after the first 20 minutes, according to Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune.
Besson has always had a soft spot for violence in his films, whether it’s the Transporter movies or the script he wrote for Taken, and Lucy is no different. Besson’s female protagonists, whether it’s Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc or Bridget Fonda as la Femme Nikita in Point of No Return, have no problem holding their own in the violence department.
Enter Lucy’s Scarlett Johansson, who has no problem fitting in to Luc Besson’s idealized female protagonist model of a gun-toting, ass kicking, independent woman.
In Lucy, Johansson plays a 25-year-old American studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan. She’s just started dating a new boyfriend who coincidentally works as a courier for a Taiwanese gangster and drug lord (Choi Min-Sik). Johansson, as Lucy, is eventually handcuffed and forced to deliver a briefcase to Mr. Jang’s hotel room.
The contents of the case is a new type of super-drug — a chemical that offers users the opportunity to use a larger capacity of their brain than sober folks (more on that in a moment) — and Lucy and three other unlucky individuals have their abdomens slit open so they can courier the drug to Europe. One of Lucy’s captors kicks her in the stomach, causing the drug to spill into her bloodstream.
I think you can see where this is going.
Lucy finds out that the drug not only makes you smarter, but also a tad on the insane side. Lucy becomes sort of a superwoman — one of Besson’s favorite clichés.
Ending up in Paris, Lucy works with a French cop (Amr Waked) to locate the other drug mules and eventually track down and exact revenge on Jang. The clock is ticking all the while as Lucy needs to inject more and more of the super-drug to keep going — finding out that she might have less than 24 hours to live.
It actually doesn’t sound like that bad of a premise on paper. However, the super-drug ends up making Lucy so powerful — she can see through concrete, time travel, read minds, and raise opponents into the air via telekinesis — there’s no doubt that she will be able to accomplish her goal. Because of the drug, Lucy is able to use more than 10 percent of her brain like most humans, using it instead almost to full capacity.
Okay. Here’s where facts get in the way of good movie making. We’ve all heard the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brain, and it’s absolutely false, though a major percentage (65) of Americans think it’s fact. Joe LeDoux, professor of neuroscience and psychology at NYU, told The Atlantic Monthly that “the brain could be 100 percent active during a task with only a small percentage of brain activity being unique to the task.”
But let’s not let science cloud science fiction.
When Lucy engages on-screen neurologist, Professor Norman — played by the untouchable Morgan Freeman — he’s shocked at her abilities.
Lucy should have been a ready made vehicle for Scarlett Johansson, whose fame has flipped out beyond the stratosphere after her turns as Natasha Romanoff in several Marvel films, but Lucy struggles where many superhero, action, and sci-fi films struggle: The protagonist is so powerful that we’re just not really worried about them.
Filled with excellent special effects and Scarlett Johansson delivering the best performance the script could ask for, Lucy isn’t much more than eye candy.
Here’s the trailer for Lucy: