Thoughts on “Lucy”

Continuing through that set of ten science fiction movies to the last one of them I have watched (to this point) comes “Lucy”, featuring the seemingly ever-present Scarlett Johansson.  The premise of this movie is actually really good, as it explores the idea of intelligence throught Johansson’s character developing super-intelligence and heading towards achieving the highest heights of intelligence that a human can achieve in a short period of time.  This is a classic science-fiction premise and could easily have taken up an entire movie all on its own.  However, “Lucy” clutters that up with out-of-place action scenes and an unnecessary plot to facilitate that.

The basic plot is this:  a young woman is suckered by her boyfriend into running an errand for him with a crime lord, which ends up in her being forced to smuggle a new designer drug into another country along with a bunch of other people.  They surgically insert the drugs into their bodies, and then send them off.  When she gets to where she’s going, she ends up being knocked unconscious and beaten, which causes the drugs inside her body to rupture and so getting into her system.  The side effect is to increase her intelligence, which somehow also gives her insane fighting ability, and so she fights her way out of her prison and to a hospital, where the effect of the drug on her is confirmed.  Her intelligence continues to increase, which forces her to contact a scientist who discusses such things as she tries to understand what is happening to her and work to maintain and deal with her unprecedented intelligence.

While some of the scientist’s philosophical ramblings in the movie seemed dubious at best, an exploration of this ending with her deciding to build the computer to host her intelligence as her body breaks down under the strain would be, in and of itself, a great science fiction movie, if perhaps not one that had a lot of mainstream appeal.  However, the movie refuses to allow the crime lord to simply slide out of the picture.  Instead, he’s a constant threat to her, necessitating a number of action scenes that really have no purpose other than to be action scenes.  Even worse, he returns in force in the climax, slaughtering the police that were trying to protect and finally winning his way through to her just as she’s going through the final process to insert her intelligence into the computer, and we get a long and interminable sequence where the crime lord tries to move into position to shoot her from behind while her procedure is progressing, and so we end up with a race between his shooting her and her finishing the process.  The problem for me here is that while that sequence was going on I concluded that this was going to be a terrible and pointless sequence.  If the crime lord succeeded, then the entire movie and her gaining that intelligence would have been pointless, as it wouldn’t have been preserved and would have had limited impact.  Since the crime lord didn’t really represent anything either as he didn’t know what was going on and only wanted revenge, it wouldn’t have been symbolic of anything either.  So it could have been a tragic ending, but that still would have felt hollow because the tragedy wasn’t established earlier in the movie to be concluded here (usually with some kind of set-up with a symbol of, say, humanity always destroying itself).  But if he didn’t succeed, then because this sequence was so long it would clearly be a long, pointless sequence that had no real impact.  Again, if the crime lord had been some kind of personal or symbolic foe that she needed to overcome, this could have worked, but he’s an uninteresting side villain.  So the movie ends with a long sequence that is pointless and would have been pointless no matter how it was resolved, that only highlights how pointless that crime lord plot was.  So the overall impression, at least for me, was that the insistence on stuffing action sequences into the movie ruined what could have been a much more contemplative piece, and the ending only makes that abundantly clear.

That leaves me a little torn when it comes to this movie.  I like the idea, and the acting and production values are pretty good.  The philosophizing is weak, but at least it’s there.  The pace is relatively good except for the ending, where it drags interminably.  Still, the shoehorned in action plot and how stupidly nasty all the criminals are turns me off of the movie, and the movie doesn’t use that to make any point as far as I can tell.  I’m more likely to rewatch this movie than the previous two, but don’t think I’ll be in any hurry to watch it again.


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