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In Defense of Lucy (2014)

 

Lucy 2014 poster

Alright, time for me to get a little salty with ya, Internet.

I admit that Lucy is nowhere near a perfect film. It’s got its share of problems; the first of which is the flawed scientific myth it springs its concept from, and then we have the false advertising in the trailer that made it look like an awesome telekinetic bad ass getting revenge on the people who experimented on her, and then the ineffectual policeman and his men who honestly shouldn’t have even been in the movie for all the difference they made. Like I said, it ain’t perfect.

But I’m not getting all the vitriol, especially from male geeks and nerds. So let’s play devil’s advocate for a second.

Overall, I’d give Lucy a solid B if you put a gun to my head. I think it accomplished more than what I expected, and perhaps that’s part of why people are so torn over the movie. It set a certain late summer blockbuster movie expectation, but it sure as hell wasn’t a summer blockbuster film. I actually think Lucy would’ve done better as a November cerebral flick without being sandwiched between Guardians of the Galaxy or Transformers 4. It’s unlike any of Luc Besson’s previous films (that I’ve seen, mind you, because I am a bit rusty. I’ve only seen a handful of his movies), in terms of the budget and the exploration of so many topics in just an hour and a half.

The reason I defend Lucy is because I think it’s a breath of fresh air in today’s world of “shut up and watch this movie and don’t think.” I mean, Transformers 4 made just as much as its predecessors even though it’s literally the same damn movie copy/pasted twice, except he changed the cast members and made Optimus a grumpy S.O.B instead of the fatherly leader we’ve known and loved our whole lives (seriously, do you remember that quote from the third film? “You may lose your faith in us, but never in yourselves.” THAT is Optimus Prime. He’s not some bloodthirsty asshole, even after we treated him like crap. Ugh, go die in a fire, Michael Bay.) Lucy doesn’t subscribe to the “think less, watch more” mentality, in my opinion, and I’ll try to explain why.

First of all, the thing I liked most about Lucy is the lady herself. She starts out just this normal girl and then some asshole tosses her into the worst situation imaginable, through no fault of her own except just having really bad taste in men. I like that she wasn’t some tough, bad ass with one-liners. I like she was just your average woman. She reacted so appropriately to that horrifically tense scene in the office where they made her open the case and then forced her to be a drug mule. As an author, it’s important to establish your character early on, and we got a really good sense of her characteristics through that traumatic experience, especially when she was in the car and she was trying to hold it together muttering about time just after Samuel’s lecture. That was brilliant done. Most people make the mistake of thinking that the only way to have a successful heroine is to make her a bad ass, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are plenty of non-action women who are just as important, layered, and interesting without starting off awesome. Furthermore, it’s such a great development to see her so scared and desperate to live through that horror and then transcend into this incredible goddess by the end of the film. I actually like the twist that Lucy wasn’t about a telekinetic demi-god running around beating up her former captors. I like that she started falling apart after a certain point in her transformation, and that her main goal was to buy time to stay alive so she could figure out what to do with her newly acquired knowledge. That is incredibly ambitious for a character in such a short movie, and I think it worked. I especially liked the ending line about “now you know what to do with it.” It’s a good nugget of wisdom, passing on knowledge to those behind us in order to improve their lives.

Second of all, I really like that she didn’t have a love interest (I don’t think the cop counts, hell, even he didn’t know why he was there, he said it to her at one point) and that the only male influences in the film were the a-holes who made her a drug mule and Samuel, who offered her advice on what to do with her new abilities. This is Lucy’s story. No one butted in. No one took control of the narrative from her. I didn’t get a nasty sense of misogyny like I have with stories like City of Bones, or even something as bad as True Blood where the writers want you to THINK the main female is independent when in reality, men control everything else around her. Lucy wasn’t a Faux Action Girl. She didn’t need anybody, even though you could tell they were trying to make it seem like she needed the cop, but that’s just poor writing. Female-centric stories are rare. It’s also why I fell in love with Maleficent. She was her own character. Sure, men had a HUGE influence on where her story went, but it was all about her actions, her love, her fear, her anger, and her motivations, not theirs. Lucy is the same, in my eyes. I felt a large amount of affection for Sam gently guiding her and not trying to exploit her in any way, because we all know that would’ve happened if she’d gone to an American laboratory. They’d have tried to kill her and cut her open to see if they could replicate what happened to her, much like how Bruce Banner was treated in The Incredible Hulk. To me, it was so cool to see them just stepping back in awe of such an incredible amount of power.

Third of all, I also liked that Lucy didn’t go full-tilt evil. Power corrupts. Lucy lost her sense of humanity, but I don’t think she lost every bit of herself by the end of the film. A lot of other writers might’ve made her the bad guy, like the disillusioned morons who wrote Transcendence, and I’m so glad they didn’t try to villainize intelligence in this film. Yes, it can be used for evil, but knowledge is the most valuable thing in the world when you consider the factor of time and what we will or could leave behind after we die. The film understood such a complex subject and gave us things to think about instead of trying to jam a message down our throats like Transcendence. I like that Lucy became ambiguous in terms of right and wrong, but she still clearly had some regard for human life or she would’ve just slaughtered all the men chasing after her. (Though, honestly, that did get on my nerves. I’d have just killed them. No sense in wasting time, but the screenwriters needed a final scene with conflict, so whatever.)

Lastly, I also appreciate that this is one of the few pro-knowledge films that didn’t feel the need to insult religion. No one spits on Christianity or Catholicism or any of the major worldwide religions. Thank you. I know the atheist crowd doesn’t care, but seriously, it’s a relief that they didn’t get up on a soapbox and preach about how science is the only way and people who believe are just ignorant jerks. It showed the Big Bang and evolution and everything, and that’s totally fine and factual, and just left religion out of the mix. It fit the tone and it was just plain polite of the filmmakers not to pick a fight for once.

I understand if people disagree with the direction the film decided to go in as opposed to how it was marketed, but I really think we have a hidden gem here that many people are overlooking. I’d say calm down and give it another watch when it hits the Redbox sometime. I mean, you had some incredible acting on Johansson’s behalf, a killer soundtrack, some stunning visuals that we haven’t seen from Luc Besson since his masterpiece The Fifth Element, a fully characterized and independent female protagonist, some diverse locations, and a straightforward plot. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have plotholes and long tangents, but I do think it was a unique experience for the 2014 movie year. I mean, come on. You can accept a mutated talking raccoon, but you can’t accept a lady with telekinesis? Don’t be that guy. Give her a chance. She may surprise you.