Is Lucy Really Bad, Really Good, Or Both?

lucyEmbedPhoto: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
When it comes to sci-fi, admittedly, I have a problem. I get so wrapped up in the premise of something that I have trouble evaluating the quality of the movie itself — for example, Godzilla 2014. Ultimately, I did not care for it. But, I was so excited, I had been waiting for so long, and it was all I could do but scream and gush for several weeks before I realized that it was, in my book, actually pretty disappointing.
In some ways, that was the case with Lucy, ScarJo's latest, which is a bigger, better take on the Bradley Cooper oddity that was Limitless. It's a thrilling (if scientifically unsound) idea, and the basic skeleton of this particular iteration could have, in the right hands, approached the levels of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It doesn't even come close, but that's not to say I didn't like it. I enjoyed it. It's worth watching, and it's often wonderfully aware of its own ridiculousness.
But, it's also a huge missed opportunity in a lot of ways. Lucy's using 100% of her brain, but I definitely felt like I was using about 1 to 2% of mine while watching. For a storyline with such big questions lying latent beneath its surface, it doesn't challenge the audience in the slightest. At one point, Morgan Freeman's character, who has ostensibly spent his entire life studying "cerebral capacity," has his mind utterly blown when a student asks him during a lecture what would happen if someone somehow achieved 100% access to their brain power. That's the "I have no idea" line you're hearing him croon in the trailer. Are we really supposed to believe he hasn't thought about this, when he has a clearly outlined section of his little slideshow for every other step of the way toward 100%?
Beyond the usual blockbuster hallmarks, there are two things that redeem Lucy and make it worth watching: First, an interesting scene in which Lucy makes some comments about time and how humans have manipulated and forced the physical world into a pathetically limited mathematical vocabulary (as our more scientifically minded health and wellness director, Kelly Bourdet, pointed out, it's one of the movie's only truly intelligent lines). Second, the movie's implications on future Hollywood blockbusters. Over the past few years, we've been bombarded with disaster after disaster, an endless stream of apocalypses, but Lucy has an unexpectedly optimistic view on humanity, intelligent life, and its place in the universe.
I don't mind suspending disbelief; in fact, I was nothing short of thrilled when Lucy (spoiler alerts now commence) turned into a supercomputer at the end and quite literally handed Freeman a standard USB drive to download her newfound omniscience for academic study. Nor was I bothered when she remained stuck in a swiveling office chair, still wearing stiletto Louboutins, while she zoomed through the very fabric of time and space and maybe had a "Creation of Adam" moment with an early ape/human creature. But, sometimes, the movie was just lazy, and not always in a B-movie kind of way that you can get behind with a chuckle and a good-natured eye roll.
Those problems are compounded by CGI that fancies itself in the vein of The Tree of Life but falls way, way short. It also suffers from some ambitious but mostly unsuccessful editing stunts, interspersing the banal with the divine (a cheetah capturing prey mixed into Morgan Freeman's highbrow presentation, a rather boring gunfight spliced into Lucy's own climactic transformation). Just like most of us paltry mortals at 10% brain capacity, the movie is hinting, grasping at something more profound, but not quite getting there. In the end, Lucy probably has a good chance of becoming a cult classic along the lines of Videodrome, and that's just fine.

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