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LUCY: What were they thinking?!

The “ten-percent of brain” myth states that human beings use only ten percent of their total mental capacity. This belief also states that if humans could access more of their mental capacity, it increase mankind’s intelligence. Despite research indicating that humans use the entirety of their brain, this myth is one of the most enduring in pop culture and entertainment. The DC Comics villain Deathstroke the Terminator participated in a project that gave him access to ninety percent of his brain’s capacity and allowed him to outwit and defeat groups of heroes like the Justice League and the Justice Society through tactics and strategy unfathomable to normal people.

Source: Universal Pictures

This myth underpins Luc Besson’s Lucy, which opened in theaters on Friday. Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, a student living in Taipei who is tricked by her boyfriend into delivering a super-drug, CPH4, for a criminal syndicate. The leader of the syndicate, Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) forces Lucy to carry the drug to America inside her stomach while three others carry packages to their countries of origin. The package ruptures inside her body when she’s assaulted by her kidnappers and Lucy’s mental capacity expands rapidly. Now she must avoid the drug ring’s soldiers with the help of French policeman Del Rio (Amr Waked) and work with Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) to understand what will happen when her brain reaches one-hundred percent.

I wanted to like this movie and the first half-hour gave me hope. Morgan Freeman, a heavyweight on his own, is relegated to explaining to the audience what’s happening with Lucy a la Through the Wormhole. Professor Norman and Del Rio give believable performances as men dealing with a situation above their pay grade even though Norman still seems to pick up on the events faster than anyone else. Jang is a caricature armed with guns, a bad attitude, and a legion of disposable thugs to help him kill Lucy and recover the drugs.

Not that it matters. The bad guys can’t lay a hand on her after the transformation begins. Scarlett Johansson goes from scared young woman to super-weapon in a single scene reminiscent of a Madonna dance video that includes seizing (dancing?) on a ceiling. Shortly after her powers activate, Lucy frees herself and has no qualms about gunning down anyone in her way. Increased intelligence also comes with the ability to turn off emotions like fear, guilt and pain. She can also see cell phone signals, knock roomfuls of people unconscious with a gesture and freeze people in place to get what she wants.

The story devolves further as Lucy finally decides what she’ll do with her knowledge, culminating in an ending that leaves movie-goers wondering what they just watched. The additions of animal shots to symbolize death, birth and sex were also break immersion in the movie.

Overall, Lucy is a movie that peaks in the first half hour and then putters the rest of the way. If you’re looking for visually appealing action sequences that don’t require thought, this movie is for you. Johansson plays fear well and she’s good with action—shown with her turn as Black Widow—but she isn’t allowed any physical action sequences to display it as Besson prefers to change her into Spock. Her performance is flat beyond that.

My verdict: Wait for the DVD. Lucy doesn’t add up no matter how much of your brain you use.

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