By LYNN BARKER
Front Row Features
“Lucy,” writer/director Luc Besson’s female-empowered sci-fi tale of an average girl turned mega-brainiac, is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. This mix of think-fest and gangster action/drama is uneven but is worth a watch. Extras, although sparse, are enjoyable.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a wannabe actress living in Taipei when a sleazy boyfriend forces her to deliver a briefcase full of a bizarre wonder drug to drug lord Jang (Choi Min-sik). Lucy is grabbed and a bag of the drug is sewn into her lower abdomen to convert her into an international drug mule. When it breaks, her body gets a massive dose and Lucy’s brain capacity gradually grows from 10 percent usage to 100 percent. What does she do with this miracle of smarts? Kick major butt, go back in time to check out dinos and morph herself into a supercomputer. Huh?
As Lucy’s mind transforms, she seeks the help of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), who has spent his life studying the human brain’s potential. In a frenzy of female empowerment, Lucy can now change her own body (short blonde to long black hair? No problem), drive like a maniac, disarm and levitate baddies with her mind and kiss hapless French detectives (Amr Waked) to insure the aid she needs and remind herself that she’s still human. After dispatching the baddies who used her, Lucy makes her way to Professor Norman and, knowing that she will die, at least in human form, she transforms into an all-knowing supercomputer so that she can pass the knowledge of the universe on to him.
”The Evolution of Lucy” is a making-of featurette and presents writer/director Besson, Johansson, Freeman and other key members of the cast discussing what the project meant to them, why they came onboard and more. Johansson evidently posted notes in her dressing room establishing just how much of her brain Lucy was using for which particular scene, thus her successful character arc. We see a few stunts on set, the Taipei shoot and Besson reveals his talks with real scientists and neurologists to build his story. Short but interesting.
“Cerebral Capacity: The True Science of Lucy” features Besson, Freeman and a couple of neurologists (one a Nobel Prize winner) discussing the true science of “Lucy”. Their conclusion? Nobody really knows the brain’s total capacity, why some people can multitask or if a new drug might improve memory. Interesting, but no real conclusions here.
Director Besson is no stranger to female empowerment films (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Fifth Element,” “Messenger”) and Lucy, turned from cute but clueless young woman into a computerized, brainiac god, might be the ultimate example. Johansson really drives it home, enacting Lucy’s character arc to the max. Freeman brings his usual gravitas and believability to his role as the astonished professor confronted with the living proof of his theories. He also gives great exposition as he explains just what might develop if the human brain could actually reach its full 100 percent potential.
Amidst the science exposition, the film’s pace takes you right along with only a few moments of reflection. “Lucy” is a bizarre mix of brainy think-fest (What could we accomplish by using our full brain capacity? What would that look like?) and stock gangster action/drama with a little sci-fi tossed in. Don’t expect logic in Lucy’s transformation. To enjoy “Lucy,” you just have to go with it. If a spider bite can turn a smart kid into a superhero, couldn’t a drug turn a girl into an evolving super brain?
More on-set action would have been more enjoyable among the bonus material. Who doesn’t love a good blooper/gag reel but this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD set looks and sounds great and the two extras are short but interesting.
Film Grade: C+
Blu-ray Grade: B