Is there anything as free from the mundane restrictions of daily life as a well-made science fiction movie? Nothing in French action-thriller specialist Luc Besson’s Lucy bears any resemblance to the real world, and that is precisely what makes it so much fun.
As the story begins, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), an average American college student living in Taipei, Taiwan, is forced into service by the local mafia as an international mule for a new designer drug. It doesn’t take long for the plastic bag sewn into her belly to break, and Lucy’s percentage of usable brain capacity skyrockets from the standard 10% — a figure not corroborated by scientists but very useful for science fiction. Lucy turns to brain-capacity expert Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) for answers, and avoids mob boss Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik, star of South Korean cult film Oldboy). Why would increased brain capacity make Lucy crawl on the ceiling like Linda Blair in The Exorcist? Hard to say, but it may be wise to keep your own brain capacity in check for maximum enjoyment of this film.
The key to any successful work of science fiction is the social commentary embedded in its story, and that’s how Lucy gets past its silliness and implausibility. It has its cake and it eats it too by posing existential questions about man’s need for “power and profit” while suggesting we enjoy the onscreen mayhem caused by that quest. Norman's earnest, lab-coated scientists contrast comically with Jang’s bloodthirsty, Armani-suited gangsters, and Johansson seems comfortable and focused in her third sci-fi movie (along with Her and Under the Skin) in less than a year. Wildly imaginative visual effects (unleashed by Lucy’s brain but realized by George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic) keep things humming along. But in the end, Lucy’s logic-defying weirdness is its own reward — and ours.
Lucy opens today, July 25, at the Elmwood Palace, Clearview Palace, Westbank Palace, and Canal Place theaters.