So what went wrong with Lucy?
There are so many ways it could have done to be better, but it hasn’t, and there are so many interesting things it attempts without much insight ultimately leaving them in the dirt.
What I hate in sci-fi films that attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible is that too many times that said films just end like “it happened, there is a complicated reason behind it, but it’s too hard to tell, so it happened and that’s all you have to know.” The problem with that way of storytelling (another film that commits this sin recently is the inexplicably overrated Interstellar from the understandably overrated director Chistopher Nolan) is that it ends the discussion right there–you can discuss how it happened, the missing link that should’ve been there in first place, but the openness of exploring the unknown, perhaps one of the chief appeals in the utopian sci-fi genre, disappears. Maybe it is science’s ultimate goal to understand everything, but a science fiction must strive to depict that endless struggle to understand everything–if not, the “fiction” is lost, while the “science” is left abandoned.
While many fans of sci-fi criticised Lucy for going light on science (what the hell does your brain have got to do with changing your hair, let alone control electromagnetic signals?), I believe Lucy‘s biggest failure comes from going light on science fiction. The plot being thin is least of its problems (so many films have succeded with relatively simple plot), but it’s the entire narrative effort as a whole that fails to synthesise its subject matter with all the generic shenanigans it does to please its studio execs. At times, it almost seem like a self-parody (Choi’s character is as cliched as he can be, while Amr Waked’s role is either a very bad spoof of police procedural cop character or a tiring joke at gender reversal the film seems to push too obviously), but as with all the bad self-parodies, it never goes beyond just embarassing itself. Johansson not bringing anything new to the table doesn’t help either; I was never really impressed by Johansson ever (except for Her; Under the Skin doesn’t count because it’s mostly Glazer filming Johansson being awkward), and this film does not change that.
The idea of brain and the supposed myth of humans not fully using it, and the linearity of time being an artificial conceiving method for our self-locked brain capacity, seem all good on paper, except this is a film on screen, not a scribble on paper. The interesting ideas never fully become realized in film form other than the tacked-on CGI sequences that rarely show anything more than just spectacles and (almost intentionally) jumbled expositions, and that is perhaps the worst way of representing something that could be inherently linked with the fundamentals of film medium itself. I am not even looking for something that rivals Act IV of 2001 Space Odyssey; even a cheap gimmick would have sufficed, but no, it’s all visual exposition/spectacle on and on and on until the film loses meaning and forgets what it was trying to talk about in first place. Besson tries to salvage anything he can, and some of the scenes are indeed exciting to watch purely for his effort, but mostly, the film is too much of a mess from the ideological conception to become anything great.
For a film about brain, it’s conspicuously brainless, and for a film about non-linearity of time, it’s strangely linear. And that’s all because the “fiction” never takes off in first place; it just keeps on circling on the ground, wondering what it wants to be until the end credits roll.