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‘Lucy’ one brain cell short of campy parody

By Staff | Jul 30, 2014

Tip-toeing on a wobbly tightrope of hokum, the science fantasy, “Lucy” starring Scarlett Johansson presumes that humans utilize a minimum of cerebral capacity so the blonde, sassy and fashionable lady plunges into a neuron vortex after overdosing on an experimental chemical.

Director/writer Luc (“Fifth Element”) Besson engineers a bionic woman rapidly going where no I.Q. has gone before, past intuition, telekinesis, levitation, and moving objects and into brightly flickering synapses that will ultimately fuse out leaving metaphysical strains of energy.

His story literally can’t make up its mind, whether to focus on Lucy’s expanding inner self, on the potential of her “super” powers, on the philosophical, or on a gang of Asian drug kingpins which prompt Yakuza action.

At the onset, Lucy just wanted to go home when her boyfriend of one week demanded that she deliver a locked suitcase. When she refuses, he straps it to her reminding one of a pizza delivery man with a bomb encircling his chest. Before the case even opens, the gun shots, body count and blood flow. Not hers, until the hoodlums implant a plastic drug package above her intestines. One of the goons forgets ‘thou shalt not kick a lady,’ which warps the package and infuses a brain cell multiplication formula into her body.

At a French University a professor played by Morgan Freeman lectures about how humans utilize a woefully low 10 percent of brain power. Simultaneously, Lucy’s learning how to control her metabolism, heart rate, manipulating electromagnetic fields, recalling words spoken just out of the womb, and, eventually, interacting inside her own cells.

Remember the Hal 9000 computer springing to life in “2001: A Space Odyssey?” The human being is doing a reversal. She’s the one metabolizing into an intelligent pure energy life form.

Her chemically evolving brain stirs faux science fascination. Aside from the university professor and his crew, the dastardly drug kingpins logically miss the point – the lady’s invulnerable. Stop the shoot ’em ups.

As her brain power increases, she disengages from the physical, which Johansson delivers in an increasingly robotic fashion. Before letting go of feelings, rolling tears, one heck of a CGI activated calisthenics display, and a memory recall demonstration earn her distinction sans becoming an ice princess.

One’s enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for “Lucy” hinges on one’s absorption in theories exemplified by “Tron,” “Matrix,” or those too artificially intelligent machines of “War Games” and “Colossus: The Forbin Project.” Except writer/director Besson should have taken an injection of the drug he created so the mission of strong woman “Lucy” would be crystal clear rather than on multiple occasions hovering just one brain cell short of campy parody. Or was he just following the studio’s commands?