“Lucy” Disappoints, But Scarlett Johansson Does Not

I was eager to watch “Lucy” starring Scarlett Johansson. The trailer looked great and I’m a big Johansson fan for several reasons. She’s beautiful in her own right, but doesn’t always look like just one stock character. In other words, she isn’t just Scarlett Johansson playing a role. I often picture her as Natasha Romanov (Black Widow) in the Avengers, but she has had so many good and varied roles she can’t be typecast. Yet you can’t mistake that wonderful voice, and she always knows just how to use it effectively.

“Lucy” begins well, with  Lucy (Johansson), living in Taipai as a student until she is kidnapped, brutalized, and terrorized. Watching Johansson’s physical reactions to abject terror gave me a visceral kick to the solar plexus. There was nothing melodramatic about it. It was real.

The horror she experienced in the midst of unmitigated violence played out in her eyes and features and voice. She wasn’t tough and she wasn’t brave. She was just an ordinary young woman, living in her ordinary world, until whirled away into a nightmare Oz where only darkness and evil prevailed.

She awoke to find her drug lord captors had surgically inserted a cache of drugs (CPH 4) into her stomach, which was a new and relatively unknown element, supposedly a brain enhancer. When she is beaten and kicked in the stomach, the bag bursts, flooding her system with unprecedented amounts of the drug. It begins to change her immediately, enhancing not only her intellect, but giving her telepathic and telekinetic abilities far beyond anything imagined.

Several scenes in the movie were so well done — and that was due entirely to Johansson’s ability to channel, not only the spectrum of human emotion, but indefinable auras. Such as the scene following her transformation, when she is bound and “helpless”. By the tilt of her head and a predatory look, even as she is chained to the wall, she makes her looming guard look totally weak and ineffective. Oh yeah. I was impressed.

With the expansion of her physical, mental, and psychic powers, her look becomes colder, more attuned to the worlds she is seeing in her mind, than the world in which she is living, though she deals with both worlds quite effectively. But the trade-off seems to be her own humanity as it slips further and further away.

Another scene evoked such emotion that tears sprang to my eyes. Her memory was such that it went back to her own birth. She borrows a cell phone and calls her mother after traveling that neural pathway, her understanding of heretofore unfathomable mother love exploding into her consciousness. It was a powerful scene.

Unfortunately for the movie, the plot went downhill from there. She became superhuman too soon. Some scenes didn’t make sense due to the fact that in an early one she could neutralize a great number of armed and dangerous men, yet did not do so in several following ones.

The basic underlying factor of the plot of “Lucy” deals with the mystery of that great unknown and unused portion of the human brain. We only make use of about ten percent of its great capacity. In the movie, Morgan Freeman, as a neuroscientist, postulates that humans could perform far beyond our wildest dreams if we could just tap into twenty percent of it. When he meets Lucy and is shown the full scope of what thirty, forty, fifty percent capacity could do, he doesn’t know what to say except perhaps mankind is not ready for it.

The problem with “Lucy” is that it doesn’t focus on any particular portion of Lucy’s transformation. The enhanced memories and beautiful depth of understanding could have been lingered over a little longer. Her physical enhancement became almost too much after too little time leading from her escape.

She was a one-woman wrecking machine without the finesse I was expecting. I wanted the bad guys to enjoy the same depth of terror they had put her through. Yes. It was there, but not quite in the way Clint Eastwood could strike terror just by the bad guy knowing he was coming. It was all too sudden. It lacked suspense.

The last half of the movie seemed to go from the bizarre to the ridiculous, wasting too much of the character Scarlett Johansson created so brilliantly on screen. Yes. It’s worth watching for her performance alone. But it’s not one I’ll watch again except for particular scenes.



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