‘Lucy’ has more firepower than brain power, reviews say

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy.”
(Universal Pictures)

Writer-director Luc Besson’s new action-thriller “Lucy” poses the question of what a person could do if he or she was able to tap into the full potential of the human brain. In this case, the person is an unwitting drug mule played by Scarlett Johansson, and the potential includes super-intelligence, telekinesis and mind control.

According to film critics, though, “Lucy” doesn’t require much brain power to enjoy -- in fact, it’s probably best not to overthink it.

The Times’ Kenneth Turan wrote, “Something like the offspring of a shotgun marriage between Carl Sagan and Quentin Tarantino, the Scarlett Johansson-starring ‘Lucy’ is part philosophical/scientific treatise, part action movie, a film that goes from mayhem to boredom in a heartbeat.”

Turan said the early scenes “are ‘Lucy’s’ most conventional and most entertaining, as our heroine discovers an escalating series of superpowers.” But as Johansson’s titular character becomes all-powerful, the film loses steam.


The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips agreed, writing that “after a swift, absurd, sleekly mounted opening, ‘Lucy’ runs into a wall, just as its superheroine is established as capable of limitless accomplishments. When you have a protagonist who can see through concrete, overhear conversations miles away, time-travel, levitate her adversaries, read minds and feel gravity, for starters, where does a movie go from there? ... When everything and anything is possible, nothing feels urgent or truly dramatic.”

Sounding a more upbeat note, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis wrote, “None of it makes much sense, but then Mr. Besson has never been one for narrative logic, being a bigger believer in the distractions of fast cuts, ping-ponging camera moves and spectacular bloodshed that sweep you up and away.” She added, “Buoyed by Ms. Johansson’s presence, Mr. Besson keeps his entertainment machine purring. He may be a hack, but he’s also a reliable entertainer.”

Even more enthusiastic is the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, who said, “Like some demented combination of ‘Taken’ and Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life,’ [‘Lucy’] is a full-out action movie -- and a sober rumination on the nature of existence. It is both things, effectively and sincerely. ... The result is crazy, but in the best way.”

The New York Daily News’ Elizabeth Weitzman, meanwhile, called the film “brazenly mindless” and lamented that “because Besson is so limited in his vision, [Johansson’s character] resembles a gorgeous robot more than a fascinatingly evolved human being.” On the plus side, “Johansson has enough natural charisma to keep the character compelling.”


Finally, the Associated Press’ Jocelyn Noveck had a simple suggestion: “At a certain point, the best strategy may be to just sit back, listen to the pounding music, admire those bright colors, and just shut that brain down entirely.”

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