The new film from Luc Besson, of Leon and Fifth Element fame, sees Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) coerced into delivering a suitcase for her boyfriend, which soon escalates into being a drug mule for some rather dubious looking mobsters and a rather spiffing English middle man (Julian Rhind-Tutt). After the package carrying the drugs inside her lower intestine bursts, causing the new and experimental drug to enter her bloodstream, the effects of the drug take hold. Lucy finds she can access more and more of her brain – but what will happen when she reaches 100%?
While all of this action is taking place (and it is pretty action packed) we see Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) talking to his students about what might happen were we to use more than 10% of our brains. He suggests the effects of different percentages of use – controlling others, controlling matter. He suggests that time is the only thing that cannot be controlled, like an anchor tying the super clever to reality.
These quick edits, between the theory from the professor and the reality lived out by Lucy at first seems interesting but after a few back and forth cuts soon feels lazy – the professors comments like a parallel commentary on what is happening in the main plot for those audience members not quite up to speed.
Besson’s use of stock footage, particularly that of wildlife brings to the foreground the suggestion that those humans using only the 10% brain power are much the same as the animals. The mirroring between the scary world Lucy now enters and the animal kingdom, neatly suggested through the interspersal of shots of the mob closing in on Lucy and a herd of leopards chasing down a gazelle, really hits this home. But after this nicely edited moment, the use of stock footage and the questioning of what humankind has achieved with its intelligence is laboured over – the footage of cities and people and the humdrum of life in Taiwan made me feel more proud of what has been achieved, rather than agreeing that we were wasting what we had ‘been given’. I’m aware science fiction shouldn’t necessarily be realistic, and whilst there are some rather cool moments of the drugs impact on the human body, it felt so far removed from reality, and the drug-fuelled Lucy was so inhuman in her movements and dialogue that I found it hard to care whether she survived it or not.
After watching the trailer you’ll be unsurprised to hear that Lucy is much the same concept as the 2011 Neil Burger film Limitless. Whilst Limitless used the notion of the magic drug that upped brain usage to highlight moral issues and maybe say something about substance reliance, Lucy feels at times lazy, and has little to exapnd as a science fiction idea. She is able to control more as she is able to use more of her brain, but what does it really effect? Not much I’d say. Certainly not me.