“Lucy” is a completely inconsequential movie. You watch it, shrug your shoulders with a “meh,” walk away, and forget about it the next day. That’d be all well and good if “Lucy” was simply aspiring to be another run-of-the-mill blockbuster. The film actually seems to have greater ambitions, though, trying hard to tackle a number of complex ideas and theories. On one hand, the film’s ambition at least makes it more admirable than mindless entertainment. On the other hand, the fact that the film can’t deliver on its ambition ultimately makes it more disappointing.
Scarlett Johansson has undoubtedly been on a roll as of late. She gave a voice-over performance worthy of an Oscar nomination in “Her,” stole the show in “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” delivered some transcendent work in “Under the Skin,” had a charming supporting role in “Chef,” and now that winning streak comes to an end with “Lucy.” To Johansson’s credit, she does bring a lot of spunk and finesse to the film’s otherwise one-note title character. Her performance might not save “Lucy,” but Johansson does make it a better movie than it would have been. That’s a true testament to a movie star’s talent.
Lucy herself is an ordinary American woman who accidentally ends up as a drug mule for the Taiwanese mob. The drug has the appearance of Walter White’s baby-blue crystal meth, but that’s irrelevant. What it relevant is the effect of the drug, which allows Lucy to use more than the supposedly typical 10 percent of her brain’s capacity. This turns her into a super-smart, all-knowing being that’s more incredible than all the Avengers combined. It’s about as plausible as the science in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
This is actually a potentially ingenious idea for a science fiction story. But unlike a Christopher Nolan or Wachowski brothers picture, “Lucy” has nothing to offer other than ideas and philosophies. There isn’t a story or a character for the audience to become invested in. A majority of the movie is just Johansson and Morgan Freeman spewing out exposition as quickly as possible, taking no time for these fantastic ideas to blossom into something more meaningful. Maybe that’s why the film rushes through its narrative in just less than 90 minutes.
Even as a purely philosophical film, “Lucy” doesn’t work as it only takes a break from the improbable exposition for cliché shootouts with stock villains. This makes “Lucy” feel like watching two different movies, one smart, the other stupid, and both pretentiously full of themselves. Whatever writer/director Luc Besson was going for, his film isn’t smart or stupid enough to be a success. It’s just a confused mess that doesn’t know what it wants to be or what it wants to say.
The tagline for “Lucy” reads, “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%.” The tagline just as easily could have read, “Imagine what the filmmakers could have done if only had used 10% of their own brain capacity.”
• Ahwatukee native and Arizona State University graduate Nick Spake has been working as a film critic for nine years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com.