Review Roundup - The fine line between clever and stupid

LUCY (2014)

As one of the last science fiction type films I'd see towards the end of this year I was actually looking forward to this from an action stand point rather than anything else. Many years ago Luc Besson directed the likes of Nikita and Léon, and while the genres in his back catalogue are not straightforward these stood out has having both explosive stopping power and solid character material that made them engaging on more than one level.

So here it's a shame that this failed to deliver on either front. As for the science fiction elements, these are the parts that work least of all and everything begins to come apart as they take precedence in the storyline. Early on it felt like there could be potential so what makes it stumble so much?

In the first act there's a sense of grit to everything. Korean gangsters running a drug smuggling operation do some rather nasty things and Scarlett Johansson becomes a mule until the unknown substance leaks into her body. Breaking out on the path of revenge she goes after the big boss played by Choi Min Sik from I Saw The Devil. Things are looking good, the guns - and knives come out; there's a sense of danger from her stomach wound and the potentially dangerous chemicals she carries. I was interested to see where would go from here. But soon they introduce the silly myth that this substance will unlock her brain power - that the human mind only ever uses a small percentage of it's potential and new and crazy abilities are waiting to be unlocked.

What really happens is that Lucy becomes untouchable, and the risk fades to nothing. Worst of all the action potential is lost and when the suited cannon fodder bad guys finally arrive she has no reason to fight them at all. What I would have given for a mind powered shoot out or an Akira type body destroying rage of some kind. It would have been interesting if she had become a monster at least for a while as her humanity becomes lost, but not a lot of interest happens at all.

All the while the pseudo science nonsense keeps piling up in redundant scenes from Morgan Freeman playing Basil Exposition. The kinds of story in which mind reading and telekinetic powers are developed because of uncharted brain cells being activated have been done before. But for some reason they wanted to go one further here and things get too unwieldy and ideas about seeing radio waves and later time itself get thrown around without enough build up. If only they'd written in some kind of personality for the title character this could have worked better. Unlike Nikita, there's not much of a personality before the changes take place. Lucy goes from everyday nobody to robot in far too short a time which just adds to the issues here, which in the end is just disappointing.



Speaking of missed potential, Terry Gilliam gives dystopia another shot in what a great looking story but is ultimately a misfire. Visually it does manage to recapture the feeling from Brazil or even Twelve Monkeys to some extent, but he forgot that those worked because of the central character drama and the fact that the stories were told well enough to make a real impact. Here is all muddled and doesn't have strong sense of direction or struggle in spite of hints that it will all be going somewhere. There is yet another all seeing bureaucracy here but it's vague and undefined, as a threat or a story element.

While Christoph Waltz gets a few good moments here he feels badly underused and it's never clear exactly what the goals of the work he's doing really are besides a few random lines about data crunching. What this data is or why it's contained in fantasy type phials is unclear. As a someone that is either lost in the world because of mental illness or just grappling with a number of existential issues, there's a huge amount that could have been mined - but it feels messy and nothing works outside some of the world building and design. The project in the title is out to prove that life is in the end meaningless, that all is nothing. This is an interesting concept, but they don't go the distance to give it weight one way the another.