The idea that humans use only 10% of their brain function is now well-established as myth. With that myth, though, comes license to speculate. And that’s where Luc Besson and Scarlett Johansson come in for 90 minutes of trashy, druggy, sci-fi/action madness, the kind that invites Morgan Freeman along to narrate.
Johansson is Lucy (her name referring, of course, to the first hairy human on Earth, whom we see scampering about, 2001-style, right before evolution turns everything into super-fast Koyaanisqatsi). Lucy’s the aimless sort, kicking around Taiwan before becoming an unwilling drug mule for some mob guys who are extremely fond of murder.
Turns out there’s this crystal blue substance that makes you dance on the ceiling and develop superhuman sensory perception. You don’t just see the sounds and hear the colors, you become the sounds and the colors, your brain power grows to 100% and you begin controlling every single thing inside you and around you. Finally, you are the cosmos, and none of it requires EDM.
This coarse blue sugar accidentally gets inside Lucy’s bloodstream and then BOOM she's a hyperhuman, growing in power, absorbing knowledge, contacting Professor Freeman for confirmation that she is, in fact, now the smartest being alive on the planet, fighting the bad guys (in a hilarious parody of her Black Widow alter ego) and pulsating to the rhythm of the universe. You can’t win against her. No one can.
This little detail deflates narrative tension but is terrifically entertaining to behold, thanks to Besson’s balls-out silliness and to Johansson’s ability to command a camera. Her self-possession deflects bullets, logic and naysaying and this is a jolting, non-essential vehicle for her robot-charms. She's a creature made for the cinema, and Besson, who never met a genre film convention he didn't want to shake and break, is having a very good time molding her into a blackened, godlike force. So what, the film seems to be saying, if her overwhelming qualities render every threat she encounters utterly pointless? Don’t you want to watch her melt herself and consume the galaxy? Sure you do.
After you do that, though, none of it will stick or make sense as you leave the theater. But making sense, Besson seems to know, is sometimes the enemy of sensation. And he loves the latter way more, pushing it until everything crashes and burns in a blaze of goofy glory.