Although lacking logic, Lucy is still an ambitious action film held together by a remarkable female driven role.

Rife with analogies and open-ended questions, Lucy is a science fiction film that is every bit slick, stylized and surreal, and everything else you would expect from French action director Luc Besson. Like Besson’s previous films, the extent of plausibility is directly proportional to the viewer’s cerebral capacity, which, believe it or not, is what the narration is all about.

Using one of the most debated questions of our time – the capacity of the human brain – Besson’s script begins with the visible one-thirds of a hypothetical iceberg. Documentary-like intercuts stand in for creation and existence with an opening scene on cell multiplication. This is further explained by Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman, no less) who in a conference in Paris, goes on to illustrate the cosmic relationship between death and immortality and how this relates to using 100 percent of the human brain. Freeman’s main purpose in this film is to sound calm and calculated like when he presents documentaries, and to make scientific mumbo jumbo sound profound, like he does in other films; using that voice, his second purpose is to bust the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brain. Thousands of miles away, Norman’s illustration becomes a metaphysical reality when Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), an American student in Taiwan, is tricked into working for a Korean drug lord. While another cutaway shows a deer stalked by cheetahs, it suffices to say that Lucy is naïve but not dumb because her focus soon turns to Darwinian survival. This is where Besson amps up the action when Lucy is ingested with an experimental drug called CPH4, a synthetic version of a metabolic enzyme secreted during pregnancy. As a primary effect, Lucy experiences a surge in cerebral capacity. Now at 20 percent, she is literally bouncing off the walls.

Before Lucy exacts her revenge, ala dual wielding guns blazing, her transformation is shown at 10 percent intervals. This is fascinating mainly due to Johansson’s performance at each interval and her character’s evolution into a different being. Without giving away the best parts, all I’ll say is at 30 percent Johansson’s Lucy is a notch above her Black Widow in the Marvel film franchise, and way ahead of Dr. Manhattan’s DC comic book world by the time she hits 70 percent. Then it gets all weird to the point where you question Besson’s cerebral capacity while writing the script. With an obvious inspiration from a ton of similarly themed films, it’s safe to say that the main plot arcs are borrowed from The Matrix, Transcendence and especially LimitlessAlthough Besson won’t find much praise for originality, you could say his creation of Lucy is as much a new cinematic super hero as his Frankenstein-ish approach in creating her piece by piece. Having said that, it is imperative that the audience appreciates her flaws more than her abilities because it’s more about what she is becoming rather than what she can do. Through this creation, Besson’s vision is clear but it is still not an excuse for his laughable hypothesis followed by a questionable ending.

Besides the unnecessary cramming of anthropology, paleontology, neuroscience and the mind boggling space-time continuum, Besson’s forte is in the action set pieces and it shows. From locales in Taiwan to white-knuckle car chases in Paris, to a hypothetical encounter with our ancestral primate, the action is heavy handed even with subtle injections of humour. This might all seem traditional for Luc Besson, given his pedigree for femme fatal films like Nikita and The Fifth Element, amongst other classics. With Lucy, Besson’s nonsense and lapse in logic is bearable, and at times enjoyable, thanks to the film’s only saving grace and that is Johansson. Fresh off the critical success of 2013’s Her and Under the Skin, both science fiction dramas, Johansson could be the new name in female driven plots, even if that means running the gauntlet with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence. But as far as myth busting goes, there’s more to Johansson than meets the eye. Blond or not.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.