[toggle title=”Specs” state=”close” ]
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik, Amr Waked
Length: 90 min
Disks: 2 (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Label: Universal Studios
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Spanish, French: DVS Dolby Digital 2.0, DTS Digital Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- The Evolution of Lucy (16 minutes)
- Cerebral Capacity: The True Science of Lucy (10 minutes)
Luc Besson burst onto the scene in the early 90s with action hits like Nikita and Leon: The Professional. A major player in French cinema, his work could not stay contained to Europe for long. Since then, his passion and work ethic have brought the world cult films like Unleashed and international hits like Taken. His latest film, however, is a bit of a departure from previous films, as he explores the untapped potential of humanity in Lucy.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman living and studying in Taiwan, who’s boyfriend has talked her into delivering a mysterious briefcase to a man known as Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik.) Lucy is quickly swept into a world of drugs and violence when her boyfriend is killed and she is forced to work as a drug mule for Jang, transporting a new synthetic drug known as CPH4 into America. After being attacked by some of Jang’s men, the bag of CPH4 sewn into Lucy’s abdomen breaks and the drug leaks into her system. The drug grants her access to more of her brain’s capacity, (previous establishing humans only use 10%) which in turn grants her superhuman abilities. She sees an increase in reflexes, the ability to quickly learn new languages, and a resistance to feeling pain. As time goes on and Lucy gains more and more access to her brain’s capabilities, she enlists the help of a famed neuroscientist (Morgan Freeman) and a French policeman (Amr Waked) to track down Jang’s other drug mules in an effort to achieve 100% control of her brain.Writer/director Luc Besson is no stranger to science fiction. His first foray into the genre was 1997’s polarizing cult film The Fifth Element. Some, this writer included, praised the film as a slick, imaginative, and engaging story that never took itself too seriously. Sadly, this does not end up being the case with Lucy. The major issue most saw with Lucy was the aspect of its plot being based on a defunct scientific theory. It has been widely accepted that the 10% for human brain capacity is not true. Besson even revealed he knew this was not true before writing the film. In a genre called science-fiction it is not any sort of crime to have a story include science that isn’t true or doesn’t exist. It’s right there in the name. Sadly, Besson chose to marry this widely discredited concept with other pieces of theorized or proven concepts of neuroscience. In doing this, Besson’s film blurs a line between science and nonsense that makes it tough to care to learn or pay attention to any of it. Besson wanted a film that would grab an audience and shake their idea of reality, but it plays so close to our own reality that the one glaring flaw in its story makes it impossible to be engaging. Despite how much everyone who is actually in the film or involved in the production of it is giving their all to sell it, the weak plot hurts all of them. Even outside of this major aspect, the character of Lucy has no actual stakes through out the movie. Due to Lucy’s God-like capabilities that manifest moments after the drugs enter her system, she is a professional grade marksman, incapable of feeling pain, and telekinetic. There are no fight scenes or shoot outs because Lucy wins no matter what. She has no obstacles in her way that she can not easily overcome in seconds and the only character growth is to make her less and less relatable and therefore less interesting as the film progresses. Despite Scarlett Johansson doing a fantastic job turning the bubbly airhead Lucy into the human-computer she becomes, the character simply becomes less dynamic and less interesting with every new conveniently placed ability. Outside of the story errors in the film, the visual work done is on par with plenty of Besson’s previous films. The visual effects and set pieces are the saving grace of the film, despite feeling out of place in the story that Besson seems to be set on telling. From seeing signs translate to different languages before her eyes to traveling through time in the blink of those eyes, we experience plenty of what Lucy does through the VFX in the film. All were done masterfully and truly add at least a sense of immersion into the film’s work. Besson even takes a page out of Kubrick’s playbook by using the rotating room effect to great success when Lucy is first exposed to the CPH4. At times Besson’s direction and editing feel disjointed and oddly scatter brained, but were done in a way to prepare the audience for the rather trippy ride they would embark on in the film. Despite how difficult following the story may be, at least the journey it goes on is nice to look at.
Filming in 4k, primarily on two Sony CineAlta F65 digital cameras, cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, creates a sumptuous tapestry of beautiful, well-saturated color that is a feast for the eyes. He manages to completely avoid the glassy look that digital video frequently acquires, especially in murky lighting conditions. In fact, throughout the viewing experience, one is tempted to think this was shot on 35mm film. There can be no higher praise for digital cinematography, and the transfer to blu-ray is entirely successful. Contrast, image depth, color saturation are all immaculate. No banding was detected. In short…Lucy is a technical triumph.
The English DTS 5.1 audio track really immerses you in the action. In its amplitude and punchlines, it really wallops you about and makes the action come alive in a most visceral way. As expected, dialog is crystal clear and music & effects have plenty of amplitude. Just like the video; the audio is first rate.
Universal’s blu-ray release is a little stingy with extra features, but what is here is somewhat diverting. Aside from some trailers, we are given a 16-minute making-of featurette, consisting of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with some of the principals, as well as Luc Besson. It basically amounts to corporate propaganda, as all such featurettes do, but it is fun to watch and gives you a fascinating glimpse into some of the production tricks that were used to get the visual effects. We are also given a 10-minute featurette consisting of interviews with Luc Besson, Morgan Freeman, and two neurologists about the “real” science behind Lucy. Ultimately, the whole thing is a stretch, but some interesting points do get made, which are worth considering, if strictly for entertainment value.
Some may feel asking for much from a film by Luc Besson is simply asking for disappointment. Sadly, this is not true. Besson has a flair for action, but it does not mean he can not tell a good story. He has done so countless times before. But, Lucy can’t decide if it wants to be a cerebral character study or a high-octane action film. While it is not for this writer to say that a film can not be both, Lucy does not pull off the combination as well as some would hope. For a film so steeped in the idea of using the human brain, it sadly can only be enjoyed by shutting the brain off. The technical presentation, however, is first class.