With all the likes of Superman, Iron Man and Batman flying about our screens it’s a fair question to ask; where are all the female superheroes? It’s not like there is a shortage of them in comic book format so surely we could get some up on the big screen. Enter Luc Besson, one of the few directors, along with James Cameron, who has always championed strong female characters. And by strong we’re talking physically tough gals who can kick seven shades out of anyone without sacrificing an emotional core to fall for. So who better to give us a female superhero than the man who gave us Nikita, Leon and The Fifth Element? Hell, throw in the only lady who can deal with all the Avengers in the form of Scarlett Johansson and you might just have something worth shouting about.
Tricked into a dangerous situation Lucy (Johansson) finds herself a drug mule for an experimental narcotic. But when the bag stitched into her stomach bursts Lucy begins to develop powers. Specifically she is able to tap into the parts of the brain that most of us have no clue about. So rather than operating at the usual 10% cerebral power Lucy begins to access increasingly upwards of 20%. As her power grows Lucy soon learns that her lifespan might be decreasing so she contacts Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a renowned theorist in the field of neuroscience, to help her. The only problem is the bad guy who put the drugs in her, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), wants his product back and will stop at nothing to deal with Lucy.
While Besson’s directing career may have hit a career low with his last offering The Family, Lucy places him firmly back in the big time. Like his films of the 1990s this is a film with visual flare, fascinating concept to burn and a lead character you fall for immediately and then delight in as she dismantles the bad guys.
Sure the plot is a little hokey, that by accessing her whole brain Lucy is able to take on the powers of every member of the X-Men ever conjured, but when it’s done with a very subtle smile and a flourish of Eisenstein montage it’s a treat. In fact, if it weren’t for some clever CGI and a slick script, you wonder if Besson’s ‘90s offerings simply hadn’t some how travelled forward in time to treat us to something a little more whacky than the all-too-serious action films of the current era. For beneath all the science and action Lucy has a sense of humour, the kind of comedy that is often delivered with nothing more than a cock of the head but also the kind of comedy that, other than the more overt slap-stick of Guardians Of The Galaxy, seems to be strangely absent from more mainstream action fare.
It’s a neat little story, rarely feeling the urge to delve into anything too deep unlike the similar ideas presented in Transcendence, especially the science of it all, but at under 90 mins it actually feels a little short. You leave thoroughly satisfied for the most part but also wondering if there wasn’t a way of giving us a little more Lucy. Perhaps a sequel will allow for just that.
Lucy’s strongest asset is Scarlett Johansson, an actress who refuses to be pigeonholed into a specific casting, she continues to make fascinating decisions. Last year she played a stunning withdrawn character in Under The Skin, here her Lucy is sassy at first before becoming a wonderfully philosophical deity, a kind of all-conquering Jedi as her powers increase. Her interactions with Freeman’s wide-eyed professor are a particular highlight and that’s before she gets all telekinetic and flirty upon her arrival in Paris.
Refusing to ever take itself too seriously, despite a genuinely intriguing set of moral and existential questions posed, Lucy is a great little action romp which does that rare thing of leaving you wanting more from this girl-power. You may not love Lucy but you’ll certainly want to be a close friend.