With summer at its peak and big budget blockbusters pouring into theaters left and right, Lucy is one of those interesting cases where the spectacle is still there but on a much smaller scale. On the one hand you have Scarlett Johannson fresh off the Marvel train as the lead, an obviously complex SFX display whenever you need it, Morgan Freeman playing a wise mentor type, and Luc Besson, director of Fifth Element and Nikita, taking the director's helm. On the other hand, this is a noticeably shorter movie at only 90 minutes long and the set pieces are surprisingly compact given that the entire premise of the story is an ordinary girl turning into Dr. Manhattan.
Lucy (Johannson) is introduced as a carefree college student who gets caught up in a Korean drug ring and forced to transport a synthetic new drug inside her body. When she gets kicked around by your typical underworld thugs, the bag inside of her bursts releasing the new drug into her system and taps into her brain's full potential. As many people online have already pointed out, the "10% of your brain" myth has already been disproven ten times over and over the course of the film its clear that the movie throws logic out the window to give you some mindbending visuals and some pseudo-science about the nature of time and space.
Oh what's that? Knowledge of the universe? The meaning of life? The nature of existence? Yeah...the movie may spout off a lot about this stuff, but it's really best not to think about it. There's a major difference between the kind of sci-fi that makes the audience reflect deeply upon what we still cannot understand vs. sci-fi that makes cool stuff happen because science, and Lucy is deeply entrenched in the latter. Yes it uses all the right technobabble, but the understanding it has on the themes it talks about feels shallow and really won't expand one's understanding of humanity in the same way Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell would. Frankly, even the newest Planet of the Apes did a better job with allowing audiences to ponder about humanity. But hey! Psychic powers! Isn't that awesome?
One of the big questions about this movie is whether or not it proves Scarlett Johannson can carry a solo Black Widow film, and to be honest her performance in this movie is too one-note to really confirm it. The titular character in the beginning is a very likable and fallible human being that everyone can root for, but the instant the superpowers kick in she essentially reverts to the Terminatrix for the rest of the film. Yes it's understood that Lucy loses her humanity the more powerful she becomes, but it's a shame to have such a wonderful actress play an emotionless girl who becomes harder to root for as time goes on. The few times she does emote are a treat and it's also a given she can handle the action set pieces, but you're probably better off watching the previous Marvel movies to get a better sense of her leading lady potential.
I'm not going to beat around the bush longer than I have to: Lucy is a small film in a sea of giants that's fun to watch and nothing more. While it may seem intelligent and thought provoking based on the trailers, it's ultimately an entertaining popcorn flick that's not nearly as heavy as the huge epic blockbusters that will likely eclipse it later on. If you're looking for something quick and pretty, give Lucy a go. Just don't expect to have your mind blown.