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Genre Sci-Fi

Lucy is a high concept sci-fi action film from Luc Besson, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. The subtitle on the movie poster for Lucy reads "The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with a 100%.". This intriguing premise is what attracts and repels in what seems like a mash up of Besson's greatest hits.

Luc Besson is a filmmaker, who has earned his stripes as a director with films like The Big Blue, La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element. From writing and directing to producing, he's amassed a huge filmography of screen credits, making him an influential and powerful filmmaker. In a nutshell, he calls the shots and makes the films he wants to make.

In his latest film, Lucy, we're confronted by a scenario that could be described as The Fifth Element meets La Femme Nikita. Instead of Nikita or Leeloo, it's Lucy who is forced to take a new identity and able to develop special abilities in a dangerous world.

The trailer for Lucy screams The Matrix, Limitless and Hannah, giving us the full Scarlett treatment and raising expectations. In reality, Lucy is more like Johnny Mnemonic meets Transcendence. Instead of carrying data in her head, a new wonder drug has been surgically transplanted on her person. Then, her superhuman abilities and the film's philosophical aspirations echo Transcendence and punctuate intense, mesmerising and raw sci-fi action.

The concept helps structure her evolution like a time bomb as we see her brain activity increasing from 10% to 100%. As the wonder drug permeates her system she becomes more aware, smarter and able to use her mind for a range of superhero-level feats from telekinesis to mind reading. It's exciting to see Johansson's character continually evolving, challenging the idea of what lies dormant in our heads. However, the sci-fi concept walks a thin line as Lucy goes from human to god.

Unfortunately, while intense and entertaining at times, Besson lets the line out a little too much. Instead of reeling us in, we become aware of just how ridiculous some of Lucy's antics are, within a worldly context. Throwing some wildlife documentary images on-screen and backing it up with a few choice words from an intermittent lecture by Morgan Freeman isn't enough.

While the action visuals are mesmerising, and Johansson is cool and totally committed to the performance, it often feels like it's folding back on itself, turning from high concept to self-parody. The opening is gritty, violent and makes an impact like something from The Professional. Moving forward, from the moment Lucy breaks free of her shackles, it just seems out there and too over-the-top to be taken seriously.

We love Scarlett and desperately want Lucy to wow us, but the borderline cheesy tone, loose science and muddled storytelling isn't enough to support the comic book visuals. Lucy would have had more license if she was an alien, but Scarlett already did that in Under the Skin, and that would have taken away from the exploration of the mind's potential.

All in all, it just feels like a beautiful misfire. We're entranced by Johansson, intrigued by Besson's "Weapon X" story, awe-inspired by the imaginative visual effects yet derailed by the anything-is-possible tone, amused by the silly-serious moments and thrown by the baffling-to-ridiculous human science. Ironically, this makes Lucy a film best enjoyed with your brain on standby mode.

The bottom line: Misfire

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