|'How does Besson choose to utilise Johansson as Lucy? Simple: by regularly equipping her with twin firearms and wasting both actress and character through flat and derivative action clichés'.|
As the title character, Scarlett Johansson is regularly Lucy's strongest asset. Johansson has spent this year marking herself out impressively through somewhat leftfield sci-fi roles in the likes of Her and Under The Skin; her performance as Lucy feels like a continuation of this trend to an extent, particularly when Johansson is given the freedom to stretch her dramatic capabilities. The contrast between the actress' terrified and emotional turn during the film's opening act, and her increasingly dehumanised character as the film progresses, demonstrates just how capable Johansson is in roles that demand something more challenging from her.
With his leading lady's strong performance at his disposal, and having created in his eponymous heroine arguably one of the most superhumanly powerful characters in recent memory, how does Besson choose to utilise Johansson as Lucy? Simple: by regularly equipping her with twin firearms and wasting both actress and character through flat and derivative action clichés. Whilst more female action stars will always be welcome - and whilst watching Johansson plough through anonymous bad guys is entertaining to a point - Lucy in the end squanders much of the potential undoubtedly held by both its title character and the actress behind her.
Heading up a decidedly mixed supporting cast, Morgan Freeman adds yet another disappointing turn to his post-Dark Knight trilogy output, barely even creating a character and firmly on autopilot from his first scene to his last. Amr Waked is better, consistent throughout despite his character having very little of interest to do. Delivering a performance during Lucy's opening act reminiscent in intensity of his defining role in Oldboy, Choi Min-sik is ultimately misused by Besson, becoming a disappointingly generic and unmemorable antagonist for the vast majority of the film.
Besson's other key mistake is one of control. When focusing on Lucy's miraculous abilities, the director simply fails to achieve any restraint. Lucy's powers are seemingly without limitation, becoming more and more extraordinary throughout the film (think every member of the X-Men rolled into one); but without any restrictions or vulnerabilities, the character simply becomes much less interesting with any suggested threat feeling almost entirely pointless.
Ultimately, two competing ideas uncomfortably co-exist throughout Besson's film. On one hand, there is an intelligent and ambitious sci-fi concept dripping with philosophical and existential questions, as well as some genuinely out-there ideas; on the other, a fairly straightforward action crime story offering very little that hasn't been seen before. Besson consistently comes across as unsure of how to balance these two opposing parts against each other, leaving Lucy feeling somewhat awkwardly composited. During the middle act, the director allows himself to settle more and more for the easier, less cerebrally challenging action option - that is, before throwing the audience a curve in the final act that lands the film deep into the surreal and existential realms explored more often by the likes of Terence Malick. It's a fascinating segment - certainly Lucy's most creatively compelling and thought-provoking - but, sadly, Besson arrives at it too late to undo much of the by-the-numbers action fare that has preceded it.