The film literally opens with one of our earliest human ancestors, who just so happens to have been nicknamed Lucy by contemporary paleontologists (get it?). Clearly Beeson is trying to make the point that this isn't going to be another one of his competent but mostly mediocre action films, he actually is trying to show this movie has something to say. After this brief and basically nonsensical scene (that only has a tenuous callback at the end of the film) we then cut forward to a city in Taiwan with our modern day Lucy. It's quickly established via in your face cutscenes (that actually wreck the movie before it even begins) that Lucy is a party girl. Then, in perhaps one of the most bizarre cinematic choices in recent memory, the entire introductory scene is intercut with shots of a cheetah hunting gazelle on an African savanna. This takes place while Lucy argues with her very recently met boyfriend about delivering a suitcase to the inside of a hotel. If you haven't caught on yet, yes Lucy is the gazelle and her boyfriend the cheetah. Sigh.
Before we even get to the "punchline", it's worth noting just how bad this movie is at delivering exposition and subtext. Lucy's boyfriend literally brings up the fact that one of the first human ancestors was nicknamed Lucy. Because yes, every time I meet someone who's first name happens to be the same as someone or something famous, that's what I want to say to them (and apparently Beeson REALLY wants us to know the first shot was of one of our earliest ancestors). Soon enough you can guess what happens to our "gazelle" and she's forced to deliver the suitcase directly to a penthouse hotel suite. We are then treated to the only set-piece that actually works in this film and feels like it belongs in an entirely different movie.
Seriously guys, the only part of the movie worth watching.
In perhaps one of this years most intriguingly terrifying introduction scenes for a "big bad" since the Mimics in the infinitely better science fiction film "Edge of Tomorrow", actor Choi Min-sik (star of the original 2003 "Oldboy") nonchalantly appearing in an expensive suit wearing blood spattered safety goggles after stepping over bodies in a hotel bathroom is truly chilling. The entire scene with Min-sik's character using a hotel concierge via speakerphone as a translator between himself and Scarlett Johannson shows that despite Beeson's shortcomings in the rest of the film, he really knows how to do tension (and phone calls). Sadly, from this promising point in the movie things only get worse. After Lucy gains her abilities, which really isn't a spoiler for anyone who's viewed even 30 seconds of the massive amount of trailers for this movie on television, we are treated to one of the worst uses of exposition I've ever seen.
Apparently, Beeson thought that merely showing Lucy's abilities and via giant text stating the "percentage" used by her brain at that point in the film (because SUBTEXT) wasn't enough. We also must have her call her mother and say some of the most asinine and bizarre things you can imagine while apparently her mom just "okay sweeties" it. Seriously, what normal mother wouldn't become instantly worried and/or freaked out when their child said "I remember tasting your milk"?? We are then treated to a number of disconnected scenes that more or less serve as a choose your own adventure style of writing where they lack any coherence and apparently don't affect the scenes proceeding or following themselves. I'm looking at you dissolving Scarlett Johansson scene on the airplane. Perhaps the most egregious scene in the garbled mess that is this movie, is the neutering of the only compelling character. By the end of the film, our "big-bad" Choi Min-sik is made so hysterically ineffectual that it would be like if Lex Luthor decided to try to take out Superman in a fistfight without kryptonite.
The director of this movie has been quoted as saying that this is a film very focused on visuals and that "the beginning is "Leon: The Professional", the middle is "Inception", [and] the end is "2001: A Space Odyssey." A particularly apt quote, if only Beeson actually knew how to apply it to his latest film.
...we don't know anymore than the dog who watches the moon.
- Great introduction scene of Choi Min-sik's character. This entire bit feels like it's pulled straight out of another movie which is a very good thing.
- The extremely poor execution of this film did bring some positives to light: namely it reminded me of an excellent short story by Ted Chiang titled "Understand". This is a story that touches on similar concepts explored in "Lucy" albeit in a much more satisfying way. It can be found online here for free.
I remember tasting your milk.
- The director, producer, and writer of the film could seriously use a lesson in how to use exposition and subtext. This film features some of the most ineffectual uses of it since the latter seasons of Showtime's "Dexter".
- Was there an actual reason for Morgan Freeman to be in this movie? Seriously, he would have worked just as well as a "disembodied voice". As an aside, Freeman was also in another sci-fi disaster from April. A little film called "Transcendence". Coincidence? I think not!
- A confusing use of quick cuts between an African savanna and the opening scene is a gimmick that is quickly dumped early on in the film. While this is more or less a good thing it certainly doesn't do us ADHD sufferers any favors.
- A multitude of story threads are picked up and immediately dropped throughout this movie that lead up to a nut-job ending that's completely unearned.
- Taking the only interesting character and pitting him up against someone that can hilariously overpower him pretty much negates any menace he may have shown at the beginning of the film.
- If you're looking to see a movie chock full of so many ideas that it ends up saying and meaning nothing look no further than "Lucy".
Verdict: An intriguing enough premise ends up being swallowed into an abyss of bad exposition and poor narrative drive. "Lucy" is a movie that tries to cram in everything it can think of, but ends up nowhere.
Do we really only use 10% of our brain? Check out the video above.
The companion review this week comes from Adam Riske over at F This Movie! (a site that also has an excellent podcast with over 200 episodes). Based on his assessment, I wish this had been the movie I saw. Check out his wildly different take on the film and what I seriously consider to be one of the worst scenes of 2014 here.