When I saw that a movie was coming out combining two of my favorite things (transhumanistic cerebral enhancement and a badass female main character), I was understandably, unbearably, excited. When I heard it was a somewhat softly intellectual yet still exciting “thrill-ride” (uuuurrrrrgh I hate that expression), I was still pretty pumped.
What I got…well, it wasn’t Limitless in a dress, but maybe it should have been.
When Lucy, a somewhat ditzy party-girl student in Taiwan (is it bad that I thought she was a prostitute in the trailers?), finds herself abducted and implanted with a new drug (some kind of chemical made by women during pregnancy that, when taken in huge amounts, makes your brain go batshit), she does the one thing any of us would do: she calls Morgan Freeman using her psychic powers and hops a plane to Paris, but not before using her sudden bad-assness to murder everyone in her way except the person who really needed murdering, including a terminal cancer patient who she totally couldn’t have saved with her magic mental powers and DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE?
For a movie predicated upon the (completely bullshit) idea that humans don’t use 100% of our brains (we do, just not all at once, and using it all for cognition would probably render us unable to fucking breathe, let alone levitate gangsters), nobody makes what I would call sane decisions. What kind of powerful Taiwanese mob boss rolls into a Parisian university, in full daylight, armed to the teeth, in front of Interpol. If you’ve survived at all as a mob boss you’re probably smart enough to send a hitman and be done with it.
Not only did the entire premise hit me the wrong way (it had to have been Morgan Freeman’s sleepwalking through an otherwise type-perfect scientific explanation that, of course, makes no damn sense; Limitless had the same premise but I swallowed that pretty easily), not only that, but it didn’t even fake it well enough. They used drugs, sure, but they showed the little blue bursts of energy in the bloodstream to show what the drug did (unlike Limitless, which I think just let us assume it worked because that’s how suspension of fucking disbelief happens). I accepted the nanomachines in Transcendence pretty much instantly, because fuck if I know how nanomachines work. I’m no doctor, but I can bet there aren’t little blue comets shooting around my bloodstream whenever I drink caffeine, okay?
So that’s suspension of disbelief out. Fine, what next? At least Scarlett Johansson is awesome, right?
For what she was given, she did a pretty good job, but there was none of the energy behind it that she gave Black Widow. She literally spends most of the movie in a monotone, because somehow thinking with more of your brain removes your ability to process emotions. In the end she dissolves into the great everything and becomes one with the Universe or some horseshit, who cares?
Did you know that human beings are born with much more neuronal matter than they end up with? In a process called “neural pruning”, much of that matter is removed, to allow better efficiency. If this movie’s premise held true even in the context of its own lore, where are the psychic babies hurling babysitters everywhere? At least in Limitless I can accept that babies might be able to think faster and be more focused, but without physical strength or actual knowledge they don’t get to use it before pruning makes their brains more efficient.
And where the hell did that campy doctor guy go? He would have made a great recurring character, at least as comic relief! You can’t just drop someone with that much personality into an important scene and then discard them, movie, that’s not how good writing works! He was my favorite character…in retrospect, because another hour or so of him not being there is enough to make me forget he ever was. Not good, movie, not good.
Was Lucy fun? Mostly. Once I forced the premise down my gullet like a too-hot potato, I managed to enjoy the sheer spectacle of it. In every other respect, however, the film fails: it isn’t especially smart (oh god the philosobabble), it isn’t especially aesthetically appealing (even the weird time-travel “here is the Earth; damn that is a sweet Earth you might say” bit violates its own premise of continuity [can they see her or not?!]), and the action, while fun, doesn’t make any sense. It’s just stitched together.
*sigh* And, Morgan Freeman, I know it’s hard, but you phoned it in better in Oblivion, okay? Even with strange character motivation, you pulled it off better in Transcendence. You couldn’t have saved this movie, but you could have made it slightly more bearable. All I’m asking for is an entire sci-fi movie where the only person is Morgan Freeman, narrating. Is that so much to ask? Make it happen.
Bottom line: if you want to see a movie about nootropic enhancement, watch Limitless. If you want to see a movie where a badass female character beats things up for a while, watch Serenity. If you want to see Scarlett Johansson emoting, watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There’s no need to see Lucy. In the words of the best Canadian band ever to write a song about Yoko Ono, “It’s all been done before”.