Film #127: Lucy (2014)

IMG_2170.JPGDirector: Luc Besson
Language: mostly English but also Korean, Chinese, French, German, Italian
Length: 89 minutes
Watched on: 17 September 2014

Japanese film release schedules are impossible to predict sometimes. Usually they’re the world’s worst, most often at the bottom of the list on IMDB, months after seemingly every other country. But just occasionally you get one like this that wasn’t released that long after it was in the west. Thus I have to be pretty lucky to catch a film like this. I usually get my film news from Mark Kermode’s podcast, but I tend not to register the films as ones I’m likely to be able to see any time soon.

A bad habit, perhaps. In any case, I had a free afternoon recently and used it to go to the cinema in Shinjuku, when I discovered that Lucy was being shown. It was pretty much what I’d been led to expect from Kermode’s podcast: a bit ridiculous, built on a flawed premise, but kinda fun to watch.

It’s worth noting from the start that this doesn’t live up to Besson’s earlier works, like The Fifth Element, although that is indeed a high bar that I wouldn’t have expected it to cross. The story concerns Lucy, who accidentally becomes a drug mule for some Korean gangsters. The drugs leak into her system, causing her brain functions to go into overdrive. In the universe of the movie, humans only use 10% of their brain, a myth that I thought had been debunked in real life. As she gets closer to 100%, she gets closer to some kind of transcendental being, able to manipulate the world around her at a whim. Certain scenes were reminiscent in that respect of The Matrix.

The premise is thus fundamentally flawed, based on a vapid myth, but as long as one can accept that, it’s definitely enjoyable. Morgan Freeman plays Scarlett Johansson’s sometime foil very well, if perfunctorially, and Besson doesn’t make his gangster characters inexplicably all speak English; for example, the Korean characters even have to call up a translator in order to communicate with Lucy at the start of the film. Details like that lend credence to the film, making up for the thin excuse of a plot.

But anyway, that now makes two films that I’ve seen recently that essentially boil down to a sci fi plot in which Scarlett Johansson ascends to a higher plane of existence. I wonder if this is becoming a theme.

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