Directed by:  Luc Besson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked and Analeigh Tipton

As the credits flickered on the screen at the end of Lucy, the patrons in my theater sat stunned by the film’s abrupt end. They murmured in confusion trying to ascertain what had just happened.  I share their confusion.

In the film, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is studying abroad in Taiwan.  In the midst of her studies, she takes in the city’s nightlife.  She meets a shady fellow, Richard (Pilou Asbaek).  After a week of dating, Richard takes her along with him to deliver a suitcase.  Lucy smartly resists and tries to go back home to study.  Richard handcuffs the suitcase to Lucy and forces her to deliver the case to the mysterious Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi).  Mr. Jang kills Richard, forces Lucy upstairs and has her open the suitcase. The case contains a synthetic form of a hormone produced by women during pregnancy called CPH4.

Mr. Jang and his gang of underlings knock Lucy out, cut her open and implant a bag of CPH4 in her stomach.  Mr. Jang attempts to use Lucy and several others as drug mules to transport the new drug into Europe.  The prisoners are provided with passports and plane tickets and locked up until their flight time.  However, the guards overseeing Lucy attempt to molest her, and when she resists, one guard repeatedly kicks her in the stomach causing the drug bag to burst and leak the CPH4 into Lucy.  

As the CPH4 hits her system, Lucy’s brain capacity starts to increase.  Instead of using only 10 percent of her brain, Lucy’s ability to tap into previously unexplored parts of the human brain increases.  Not only does she remember the taste of her mother’s milk, but she is able to move objects, change her appearance, and control others as she unlocks more of her brain power. However, the clock is ticking on Lucy as the CPH4 is also slowly destroying her.  

I am somewhat conflicted on Lucy.  On the one hand, Scarlett Johansson’s performance elevates the film’s material.   It is compelling to watch her transition from frightened, horrified college student to a beyond brilliant, detached, almost robotic superhuman. Moreover, it is always wonderful to see strong female leads in science fiction roles.  

On the other hand, Lucy comes across as a bit pretentious.  While I applaud the filmmakers’ efforts to deliver a science fiction film with some depth, the film tries to be too clever for its own good.  The myth that humans only use 10% of their brains has long been debunked by scientists, yet it persists in Hollywood as a creative storyline.  Director Luc Besson uses this myth to challenge us as to what it is we are doing with our potential and our lives.  Throughout the film, images of prehistoric man/woman and animals in the wild are interspersed with modern day life.  Some of the overlapping themes in the film are questions regarding what makes us human, what makes us different than other animals, what have we done with our intelligence, and what is the meaning of life.  These are all pretty weighty topics that cannot be tackled in a cursory fashion in less than an hour and thirty minutes. As a result, the film’s purpose is a bit muddled and the story just goes off of the rails completely towards the end.  

Further, the film is just too heavy-handed.  It is narrated by Morgan Freeman, who plays a professor. He educates viewers throughout the film and poses a series questions and theories.  A truly smart film imparts knowledge and is thought-provoking without knocking you over the head with a sledgehammer. Themes and issues are seamlessly interwoven into the plot and naturally generate questions and discussion. Lucy simply trots out theories like "time is unity" in the midst of action sequences and pretends that the film is uncovering something earth-shattering.

Lucy is the perfect film to study in a college class on the meaning of life or a feminist critical theory course.  But if you are looking for a summer blockbuster with a cohesive plot that is entertaining, this is not the film for you.  Lucy earns a 0.09% rating.  You’ll need a mojito for this movie.