Saturday, September 10, 2016


(Luc Besson, France/USA, 2014)

Surprisingly loopy, but the loopiness doesn't translate into much fun.   Besson's pulpy head-trip resembles nothing so much as a high-budget cell phone commercial - the sort of thing that tries, with risible earnestness, to imbue Information Technology with cosmic significance.  If advertising works by tacking cheap sentiment and banal ideas to completely unrelated consumable products, Besson's film operates in a similar fashion.  He gives us a terse, functional actioner that's tethered willy-nilly to some dizzily half-baked ideas about human potential and metaphysics. 

There's a playfulness to the film that crops up intermittently, and some of Besson's visual ideas are arresting and even beautiful, but for most of the time it's a slog.  Like so many contemporary action-adventure movies, it doesn't really trust its audience, and so must favor speed and sensation over inspiration and insight.  It's hard to tell the proportions of cynicism and ingenuousness at work here: much of the time, the fortune-cookie philosophy and pulp sci-fi seems extraneous, nearly an afterthought.  But as the film gathers momentum and the concepts spiral ever higher - as Lucy's brain capacity approaches 100%, giving her Godlike omniscience - it seems more likely that it's the pop-sci stuff that really gets Besson going, and he's using guns and sex appeal to appease the attention-deficient ticket-buyers. 

That may be Besson's method, but what's his object?  The whole "we only use 10% of our brain" notion is widely reported to be utter bunk, and even if it were true, the idea that unlocking more of our "cerebral capacity" would make us into sexy wizards seems, well, silly.   Besson can't quite decide how seriously to take his material; how far to push the kitsch, how much destruction to orchestrate, and how much gravitas to conjure, even if it's simplistic and hollow.  He's having a good time, but he's also going through the motions, offering up a tacky gloss on serious questions with a explosions to spare.  Johansson is game and works hard for the money, but her natural presence and talent can't quite rescue the film from being a trifle.

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