I’m not a fan of Scarlett Johansson, but somehow I’ve still managed to see every film she’s released this year.
In January, we had “Her,” the slightly awkward love between man and machine, literally. Then came “Under the Skin,” a movie I’m still trying to block out.
She also had a small role in “Chef” as the hostess with the mostest. To date, my favorite has to be her take as Black Widow in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which proved to be the first time her characterization has really been successful for me.
Aside from “Under the Skin,” none of these films has had Johansson as the central focus. Enter “Lucy,” a film that doesn’t know how to focus on much else.
French director Luc Besson’s cerebral — pun intended — sci-fi thriller revolves around Lucy, a young woman with bad taste in men — and fashion. Her newest beau makes her deliver a mysterious case to even more mysterious bad guys.
Ultimately, she becomes an incubator/transport for a spiffy new blue drug — no, it’s not Walter White’s Blue Sky. After getting kicked around, the pouch bursts in her stomach and spreads throughout her system, amping her brainpower to the max. Chaos ensues.
According to Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman, it’s been estimated human beings only use 10 percent of their brain’s capacity. Lucy’s drug overdose sends her far beyond that number, granting her extraordinary abilities.
As her brain reaches new levels, she is endowed with telekinesis, the power to control technology, the ability to manipulate her appearance and more. She can’t feel pain or emotion. And she begins talking like Commander Data, the android from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Besson both wrote and directed “Lucy.” It’s an intriguing idea and one that offers an unlimited amount of creative freedom. And Besson pushes those boundaries as far as he can. At least in some ways.
• Freeman’s lecture on cells and the cerebral power of the brain. It’s not a short lecture, but Morgan Freeman is saying it. So, you listen. I’m fairly certain he was cast simply because he’s Morgan Freeman, and anything he says sounds better than anyone else saying the same thing. Anyway, Besson inserts visual representations of the content — and it’s problematic, at best. We see scenes of animals mating and babies, humans and others, being born — quite graphically — as he discusses reproduction. Word to the wise, don’t go see this with someone immature as I was treated to various people audibly giggling or ughing as the above appeared.
• Besson’s stylistic choices saturate the entire film. When Lucy is in a touch-and-go situation, the film cuts back and forth between Lucy and clips of a cheetah stalking — and ultimately catching — its prey.
As a filmgoer, artistic choices like these both intrigue and offend. Some scenes didn’t require a visual representation while others simply pulled me out of the film itself.
Besson’s choices are a little odd, but he’s created a movie that grabs you and refuses to let go. Yes, all characters aside from Lucy are merely props whose names we don’t really need to know. Whether it’s Lucy’s roommate, the main bad guy or the French detective who asks “How high?” when Lucy says “jump,” each is a character that serves little purpose except to add some dialogue to the mental trip Lucy’s on.
And yes, the plot is a little ridiculous. OK, a lot ridiculous, but it offers so many possibilities. (Anyone going into this one expecting a semi-normal movie should look elsewhere.)
Having said that, “Lucy” might leave you scratching your head, but it’s a wild ride. Every line is reached and surpassed on the crazy scale. Our heroine goes from ditzy, party girl to the human supercomputer, and you’re never sure what to expect on the journey.
However, my patience with the movie decreased as Lucy’s brainpower increased. There are some earned laughs, though, that briefly pulled me back into the film. (It’s pretty awesome to watch her take down bad guys with a simple flick of the wrist. I can think of several that would be in serious danger if I had mind fu like that.)
I will applaud two things about this movie:
• No. 1 — I love seeing a film that focuses on a strong, badass chick that can take care of herself. Lucy doesn’t need anyone, except as a prop to keep the movie from being all Scarlett, all the time.
• No. 2 — Johansson is taking risks. I might not be a fan, but she’s exploring the roles out there for Hollywood’s females and testing the waters.
For me, “Lucy” doesn’t work, but it’s not for lack of trying on both the part of its star and director.
Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.