By Joan Ellis
If you have suffered or avoided the typical summer diet of aliens and vampires, you might try “Lucy,” an action thriller that explores an original notion: What would happen if a human being used more of his/her brain than just the 10 percent we assume is available?
Exploring that idea is much more fun than watching monsters blow up our favorite cities.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is tricked into delivering a mysterious briefcase that results – don’t ask how – in her waking up empowered and on the way from 10 to 100 percent of her brainpower.
Our neurons determine who we are – so says Dr. Morgan Freeman, brain specialist – and with her neurons firing wildly, Lucy feels viscerally the vibrations of space, gravity and the rotations of the earth. “I can feel everything,” she says and likens her new power to the discomfort a fetus feels as it tries to form its bones. Got that?
Everything in Lucy’s new world is fluid, and the special effects team builds a visual extravaganza on that fact. Images flow in a visual river of objects and people. By the time Lucy has adjusted to her new self, she is dispatching bodies, bullets and cars with a mere wave of her hand in a vengeful roar against the people who implanted the CPH 4 that changed her life.
Two serious reservations: Bad choice to make all the monstrous villains Asian. Even worse choice: With all those special powers at hand, there was no need at all to use guns to kill an army of villains. Stick with the special powers, please.
By now we are smiling and often laughing at this cartoon of the imagination, but it’s an appreciative kind of laughter – the “how dare you be so outrageous kind” generated by absolute disbelief.
This is Scarlett Johansson’s movie from beginning to end and she’s terrific in the role. In her newly flat, emotionless voice – the result of not being able to feel pain, fear or desire – Lucy has no human relationships, only her revenge. She carries forward beautifully the spooky premise of a brain increasing its capacity tenfold. Who wouldn’t enjoy watching Lucy swipe the entirety of human history across a giant computer screen?
Writer/director Luc Besson gives us a wonderful 20-minute lead-in that shows the fast forward evolution of creatures over a billion years as cells improve their communication with each other within brains from primitive to present to future. It’s a grand beginning that holds us tightly until things begin to disintegrate to silliness, but even the silliness is fun.
Along the way, just enjoy Johansson’s game performance. You won’t be able to stop thinking about what’s going to happen when technology actually allows us access to more than 10 percent of our brain. Given the pace of technology, we all know that’s coming soon.
If circumstance forces you to see a summer blockbuster, this might easily be your best choice.
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.