This review contains mild spoilers.
There are many sucky things about long-haul international flights. Like the bathroom situation in general, being stuck next to someone you don’t know who refuses to share an armrest, and trying to readjust your body clock before you get home. One thing that is not sucky about international flights is the selection of free movies.
‘Just Lucy’, the movie’s titular character, wants to go home and study for her exams. Instead, she finds herself an unwilling mule for the new drug CPH4—modelled off a chemical produced by women in their sixth week of pregnancy, which gives babies the ability to properly develop. After Lucy accidentally (and again unwillingly) overdoses on the synthetic substance, she begins to access more and more of her brain’s capacity, gradually reaching 100 per cent.
When Lucy was first released in Australia back in July, I mentioned the premise to my friend Josh, and he immediately told me that the science didn’t make sense. I finally watched this movie on the plane, months after my conversation with Josh. Once we touched down, I did my own research, sifting out the scientific terms he had used until I understood what he had been telling me. If we could only access 10 per cent of our brains, we would be able to excise the other 90 per cent. But every part plays a vital function; they’re just not on full throttle every second of the day.
I’d like to say that Lucy is aided by Morgan Freeman’s character, Professor Norman, and by the French police captain portrayed by Amr Waked, but that would be lying. Lucy (Scarlett Johannson) is entirely self-sufficient once she has the CPH4 in her system. Professor Norman exists purely as someone to whom Lucy can pass on her knowledge. The French captain exists, Lucy says, as ‘a reminder’. I assume she meant a reminder of what it feels like to be human, because, while her reactions pre-overdose there’s not an awful lot of that human emotion left in her by the end.
I think the dwindling human emotion was why I found it hard to connect with Lucy. The plot forms around her but she is almost immune to it, lost in a swirl of special effects as her new abilities manifest. As promised, the more Lucy evolves, the less human she becomes. Scarlet Johansson gives us everything we are warned to expect but, unfortunately, it doesn’t make for a character with whom we can easily identify or even sympathise.
I love that this is an action movie with a female lead. I love that we aren’t force-fed a romantic subplot amid the chaos. I love that Scarlett Johansson portrays the character in a believable and appropriate manner. But I am very much driven by characters and I couldn’t connect with Lucy. I recommend this movie if you are happy to suspend your disbelief and settle in for an hour and a half of shoot-outs, cool special effects, and a kick-arse female lead, but don’t think too hard about it.