Box Office Democracy: “Lucy”
The nicest thing I can think to say about Lucy is that it is exactly how I would have remade 2001: A Space Odyssey if I had done it when I was 16 years old. I would have replaced the male astronaut with an attractive woman, kept the trippy end sequence and replaced the first two-thirds of the movie with a mediocre tribute to Hard Boiled. I also probably would have struggled to fill 90 minutes and would have added some really strange filler to get it to a marginally respectful run time like 89 minutes. Thankfully no one was willing to give me $65 million to make a movie when I was 16 (unfortunately no one will do it now) but we’re stuck with what Luc Besson made here. I was stuck at least; you might still be able to save yourself.
Lucy is short because there’s no B story at all, every scene exists solely to move the main plot forward. This leads to a rather short run time but also creates a kind of fatigue while watching the movie because there’s nothing to break the tension. It also leads to some really desperate attempts to pad the run time of the movie. Every event of the first third of the movie is accompanied by some kind of illustration of what we’ve just seen using stock nature footage. When Lucy is being set-up to make the delivery that sets the whole plot in motion we get several different cuts to a cheetah stalking a wildebeast. Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman gives a lecture over the first 20 minutes of the film and when he mentions that some organisms reproduce we get three animal couples copulating on screen. This isn’t clever or funny it feels like desperate clawing.
Going in to the film one of the few things I has heard about Lucy was that it was racist because of how it treats Asian culture and people. I saw pictures with Chinese graffiti translated to reveal it was gibberish and the sequence where she shoots a cab driver in Taiwan for not speaking English (or for saying “no” to someone waving a gun in his face). In what might be response to this backlash the cab driver scene has been edited so you can hear the driver moaning about being shot in the leg later in the scene. It’s very much a “who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” moment as I just saw her shoot him not in the leg and the blood splatter is on her face but they tried. There’s a callous disregard for life in the film all throughout which kind of bugged me but I think I can report with only a little bit of melancholy that Lucy is not much more racist than the median Hollywood action movie. Hooray progress?
I know this probably wasn’t the choice but I would much rather have had a Black Widow movie if Scarlett Johansson was going to do a slick shiny movie where she shoots people with a lot of sci-fi mumbo jumbo in the background. It would have had a plot that hooked in to things I already knew, they would have had the decency to just call things crazy names instead of being just a smidge off popular science misconception and there’s a chance Thanos would have been in it. I would have preferred all of that to what I got out of Lucy.