At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Lucy “2014”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Lucy “2014”

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Sci-Fi Action/Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbæk, Analeigh Tipton, Nicolas Phongpheth/Runtime: 90 minutes

I think it can be safely said that in the aftermath of the year 2013 which saw her give a pair of fairly riveting and intriguing turns as both an A.I. that falls in love with a broken hearted Joaquin Phoenix in the fantastic Spike Jonze cinematic outing known as Her as well as an extraterrestrial seductress that has decided to set her sights on Scottish men in the underrated sci-fi gem Under the Skin respectively, we see that in 2014 iconic actress Scarlett Johannson decided to do something different. That being that, instead of give us a sci-fi slice of cinema that was very much designed in some way or form to make us think, she decided to team up with the helmer of The Fifth Element and make one that doesn’t require the viewer to have any brain cells at all if they so choose. As a result, we got a pleasant-enough yet also delightfully semi-thought provoking as well as wonderfully full-blown goofy to the hilt sci-fi cinematic ride about what could happen if a human being was actually able to utilize the entirety of their brain known as Lucy. Of course, if you are going into this thinking you are going to receive a slice of cinema that is willing to apply the term “logic” to anything that you will witness during its 90-minute runtime…. you would most certainly be sorely mistaken. If however you are thinking that this will be a film that dabbles in style, operates with a feminist bent, goes to a few different locations across the planet, and is one that is designed more to entertain than anything else then you are definitely on the right track. Indeed it may happily and liberally borrow elements from properties ranging from the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey all the way to (I kid you not) the kind of documentary on National Geographic that you might put on to help you sleep at night, but there is also no denying that Lucy is most assuredly a wild, uneven, psychedelic to an extreme, and ultimately fairly likable cinematic ride that is blessed (?) with an ever-shifting instability. An instability incidentally that may get some of you definitely intrigued, but might prove to be a bit much for those of you out there who want a slice of cinema that is perhaps a bit more in terms of run of the mill style material.

The plot is as follows: Lucy gets its more than fairly engaging narrative underway by introducing us to our main heroine Lucy. Lucy, we rather quickly learn, is a young American woman who is engaging in her academic studies in the country of Taiwan. Yet Lucy isn’t really all that devoted to learning that can be found courtesy of a textbook or lecture hall notes. Rather, she is the kind of individual who is focused more on learning as much as she can from the bottom of a beer bottle and/or from as many random hookups as she can make her way through before consequences emerge. Unfortunately for our heroine, we see that the time has come for those aforementioned consequences to come into play. With that, we see that our heroine is firmly pushed into running a seemingly simple errand for her new squeeze in the form of delivering a mysterious package to a hotel front desk. Yet, we soon see that this is by no means a simple errand especially when a group of men in suits promptly and swiftly execute Lucy’s boyfriend and then proceed to take her up to a suite on the top floor where a reluctant meeting with a crime lord awaits. Indeed, in case you hadn’t been able to put two and five together dear reader, our heroine has just unknowingly signed up to be a part of the international drug trade right down to having to carry a bag of an unknown substance inside her stomach for transport to Europe. However, we soon see things go awry when, during an altercation with some of the crime lord’s henchmen, she is kicked in the stomach and the bag bursts and releases the concoction into her bloodstream. Yet, remarkably, the drug doesn’t kill her; rather, it begins to open up formerly closed corridors of her brain and in the process grant her supernatural abilities that will proceed to get more and more incredible the longer she is able to stay alive. Realizing that she has a responsibility to share the knowledge she will soon be able to access however, we see that our heroine makes the choice to contact a man by the name of Samuel Norman. A man, who among other attributes, is a professor who has done a fairly significant amount of research into the human brain that our heroine thinks might be able to be of vital aid to her. Yet when she learns that there is more of the drug that gave her these abilities still out there, we see that our heroine embarks on a double-tiered mission. Not only to share her ever-expanding knowledge with Norman and his colleagues, but to also work together with a police captain in Paris to find the remaining drug packets before they fall into the wrong hands no matter what the cost…..

Now right off the bat, I should let you know that in an aspect that is nearly respectable this slice of cinema really isn’t a thriller. This is because, unlike most thrillers where there is a sense of legit peril and/or stakes for the characters, neither of those things is present here, but when your heroine is for all intents and purposes indestructible that definitely makes a lot of sense. At the same time however, it doesn’t really make you really worry about this character when she faces off against squads of bad guys in this since you know she is literally going to wipe the floor with each and every one of them. Not to mention, but there were also quite a few moments in this where you won’t be surprised to have the sense go through you that had this film actually made the creative choice to cut loose as well as be more intelligent, it actually could have transcended the limits placed on it by its genre of choice. Yet if this movie doesn’t really shine in certain departments, it is most likely due to the fact that its helmer seems to have his attention more on spending time with, in a manner that is equally lively and solemn, the collection of assorted otherworldly, organic, and theoretical questions this narrative brings up. To that end, we do see that our main heroine gets a few well-spoken speeches that allow us to think on such topics as how precious time is, how short life can be, our proclivity as a species to put an emphasis on emotions over thought process, and that life only starts to acquire a degree of significance when enough time has come and gone. With that said though, perhaps one of the key reasons that this slice of cinema is able to viewed as a delightfully loopy time waster instead of a film that just makes you want to go to sleep is in how it knowingly honors a collection of iconic trippy sci-fi films from the land of movie magic and inserts the concepts it is operating with alongside those references in a manner that winds up being delightfully sneaky rather than run of the mill. Indeed, in its attempt to discover man’s place in the universe whilst also trying to predict where we go next, this slice of cinema feels very much like Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey (Heck there are even moments of this that occur in the vast cosmos.) Meanwhile we also see that our heroine’s eventual ascent to near-deity status feels very much like the one embarked on by Neo in the first Matrix movie. Yet, besides alluding to those slices of cinema, we also there are throwbacks to some of the other entries in it’s helmer’s distinct filmography. Indeed, much in the same vein as The Fifth Element, this film is a well-designed film that is meant to be a focus on a heroine that we are willing to root for without question. Suffice it to say that this is, without a doubt, its helmer’s most lively movie in quite some time even if with lively flashes of color, well-built in terms of imagery, vibrating musical accompaniment, and even its misfires of tone and bits of accidental comedy feel like the helmer was merely playing to his strengths rather than create a fairly novel product.

With all of that being said though, there is no doubt that one strength that helps to elevate this material is the fairly well-chosen cast of characters in front of the camera. This starts with Scarlett Johannson who does a fantastic job not only in the action scenes, but in assembling all of these seemingly disconnected components into a singular entity. Indeed, in the movie Her, Johannson gave a voice to a higher form of intelligence and in Under the Skin she nailed showing how humanity must appear to an alien from another world. In this film, the character of Lucy is one that I feel combines both of those aspects into a single character thereby posing double the challenge for this immensely talented actress to pull off. Ultimately though, she is able to succeed immensely at giving us a character that may start out as human as you or I, but as she begins to be able to access more and more of her brain she finds herself losing touch with her humanity and instead begins transforming into something more otherworldly and in touch with knowledge most of us could barely even begin to imagine all while kicking her fair share of bad guy butt. Now when you have a heroine who is starting to seriously lose her grip on her humanity, it goes without saying that you need to have strong work from your support cast not only to sell the incredible events that are unfolding before their eyes, but to also provide this slice of cinema with a vital and necessary degree of humanity (both good as well as bad) that it so desperately needs. To that end, we see that from the always dependable Morgan Freeman who is pretty much acting like this film’s exposition tour guide of sorts in his co-starring role of Professor Norman to Amr Waked who does a wonderfully stoic job as the cop working alongside our heroine in Paris and even a wonderfully sinister albeit criminally underutilized Choi Min-sik from such gems of Asian cinema as the original Oldboy from 2003 and 2010’s I Saw the Devil as this slice of cinema’s ruthless drug lord antagonist every single one of these terrific talents do a wonderful job of keeping this movie energetically moving forward even with how ludicrous the science at the heart of this film really is.

All in all and at the end of the day is Lucy the best of the best when it comes to the realm of sci-fi cinema? Honestly no. Not even close. Hats off to you if you think that though. At the same time, is this among the realm of the worst of the worst that this distinct genre of movie magic has to offer? Thankfully, I can also answer in the negative on that one as well. Suffice it to say that, by and large, the slice of cinema that is 2014’s Lucy is a fairly engaging and entertaining film albeit one that is by no means a poster child for one that possesses the most in terms of logic and/or common sense in the world since this film takes both of those concepts right from the word go and hurtles them out the window at full speed. Even with that in mind however, I still feel that if you are the kind of person who just wants a simple yet fun popcorn movie that has some fairly engaging action beats plus Scarlett Johannson kicking some serious bad guy butt courtesy of a particular avenue that not a lot of other movies have thought to traverse as well as Morgan Freeman delivering to your ears some of the most ridiculous yet riveting exposition you have ever heard in such a believable way that I feel only Morgan Freeman and a select few others are capable of pulling off then welcome aboard because you are definitely in the right place. Thus, no it might not possess a whole lot in terms of intellect and/or thought-provoking material to really ponder over once the credits begin to roll, but if you want a fun little rainy-day kind of movie then definitely give this film a try. Just remember that this movie, unlike its core narrative supposition, is not one that will require even 10% of your brain to enjoy. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Lucy “2014” a solid 3 out of 5.