A much visited element of science fiction is the exploration of where man has been and where he is going, whether it be the physical aspect such as space travel or time travel or in the exploration of human biology to show where man’s evolution could take us. Films like X-Men: Days of Future Past dabble in the “next step” in human evolution where we poor Homo Sapiens may find ourselves left behind by Homo Superior, and then there are films like Limitless and Luc Besson’s Lucy which has science giving evolution a helping hand.
This film does contain one of the sillier science fiction tropes that man only uses 10% of his brain and that if he could tap more of it he would gain extra abilities. We all know this to be untrue. It makes no evolutionary sense for humans to develop larger brains and then only use a small portion of it, but in Lucy we have Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) giving a lecture hypothesizing such ideas and because we are hearing it in Mister Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones he almost makes it seem believable. Filmically it’s a conceit that allows Luc Besson to throw up title cards tracking Lucy’s progress towards 100% and because structurally speaking it works I can let the whole 10% thing slide. But please Hollywood let this be the last movie to toss out that old chestnut.
The story begins with Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) an American living in Taipei, Taiwan and who, because of poor choices in boyfriend material, finds herself being forced to be a drug mule by a very evil cartel. Lucy and three other hapless souls have had drug packets surgically inserted into their abdomens with the intent that they were to be sent on their not so merry ways to their home cities where more cartel thugs would be waiting for them to then relieve them of their precious cargo. Unfortunately, or not depending on your point of view, one of the cartel thugs gets a bit rough with Lucy and after a kick to the belly her drug packet ruptures and her body is flooded with the synthetic cocktail.
What follows is a jet fueled adrenaline ride as Lucy basically becomes an X-Men and starts kicking butt and taking names, often using her mental powers to rip said names right out of her enemy’s heads. Lucy has become completely in tune with her body on the cellular level so realizes that her life expectancy has decreased dramatically with this power upgrade and the only way to stop herself from fading away is to retrieve the other three packets from her fellow drug mules. The chase is on.
Along the way she contacts Professor Norman after reading up on his entire life’s work and it is the conversations with him and his fellow scientist that the film delves into some pretty heady theoretical ideas. In fact the last act combines gun battles and the nature of the cosmos which isn’t something you expect in your summer action flick. It’s while dancing around in this rarefied air that the story kind of loses its focus but really this movie is more about ideas than plot.
The film pretty much rests solely on the shoulders of Scarlett Johansson’s performance and she is certainly up to the task, as the drug increases Lucy’s potential we see her divorce herself bit by bit from humanity and Johansson nails this aspect perfectly.
So as an awesome action film it dishes out some great action sequences with a cool super-powered flair, and as a science fiction think piece it does a pretty decent job working outside the box if a little guilty for coloring outside the lines.