Scarlett Johansson has had quite a year for cinema releases: The wonderful Her and Under the Skin, the enjoyable Captain America: the Winter Soldier, the variable Chef and finally, Lucy.

Lucy, written and directed by Luc Besson, has the questionable premise mired in the myth that we only use 10% of our brains (Wikipedia), and postulates that if we were only to use more, we would attain superpowers  and godhood. Johansson’s Lucy, in a first act filled with over-laboured animal imagery, is thrust into the Taiwanese criminal underworld, and subsequently has a bag of drugs thrust into her.

This drug, synthetic CPH4, is the film’s firs bit of scientific hoodwinkery. The idea is that in miniscule quantities this enzyme is created by pregnant women to jumpstart the life of their growing baby. Synthesised, the chemical is to be marketed as a recreational drug but, due to an accident, Lucy partakes of a heroic dose of it, and unlocks the unlimited potentail of the human brain and body. This marks the end of act 1, and also the end of any subsequent threat to the character, as of this point she is already the ultimate superhuman and nigh-invulnerable. She tears apart her captors and escapes, unlocking more and more of her brain to do so, gaining more and more super powers.

It is with these superpowers that she reaches out to Morgan Freeman who, as the leading light in the evolution of brain development, has some utterly unsubstantiated and poorly articulated theories on this. This works out perfectly, because it means he is on hand to narrate what’s going on to us poor simpletons in the audience. He has no actual sciencing to do of any kind and he’s utterly irrelevant to the plot, though he does get to push a button in act 3. He really serves no purpose than to narrate.

Lucy, meanwhile continues to increase the utilisation of her brain, gaining powers over her cells, time, everything. This super-powered genius fails to stop a whole bunch of people getting injured, maimed or killed but, with all potential of a fledgling deity, her new emotionless robotocism doesn’t allow her to feel anything, presenting Johansson as cold and wooden.

Look, it’s not that there’s nothing to laud in this film, for a start it’s only 89 minutes long. That’s not the backhanded compliment it sounds like, Lucy is a shot of espresso, an exciting visual feast that doesn’t overrun. But sadly it is more froth than content and there won’t be a clamouring for either Johansson or Besson.

Besson, best known as the writer/director of Leon and The 5th Element should, in his latter days, perhaps have to stuck to such fare as the wonderfully batty The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec.

Written by Stephan Burn

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