Between writing Taken and the Transporter scripts and writing-directing Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, Luc Besson has had a hand in cementing action-hero stars who don’t necessarily fit Hollywood’s mold. Fans have been clamoring for a Black Widow movie starring Scarlett Johansson. Besson’s new movie Lucy might not have Black Widow, but it does have Johansson as the superhero lead.
Lucy isn’t just an action-star vehicle. Besson shared with The Wrap his philosophy behind the story:
Usually in films the villain tries to get the power. He wants revenge; he wants to kill, steal, conquer. It’s all about the power, and the good guy tries to stop him or her.
Here, there’s this girl who gets the ultimate power; you can’t have more power than she does. The first thing she says is, ‘I don’t know what to do with it.’ The professor tells her to pass it on. There are lots of people who are very powerful around the world, and most of them are not using their power very carefully. They should just pass it on.
Not least among these allusions to other movies are the obvious echoes of Besson’s own. Like “La Femme Nikita,” “Leon: The Professional” and “The Fifth Element” before it, “Lucy” is a slickly engineered showcase for a kickass heroine whom we instinctively, unhesitatingly root for. It also feels like a calculated bid for popularity with a younger American audience that may be unfamiliar with this particular Gallic genre maestro (the “Taken” movies he produced notwithstanding). Certainly, after the bland history lesson of “The Lady” and the joyless family-friendly shenanigans of the “Arthur” trilogy, this is easily the director’s most alert, energized and recognizable piece of direction in years — a movie that, with its muscular widescreen imagery, vibrant streaks of color and pulsing musical beats, as well as its occasional tonal missteps and moments of unintentional hilarity, feels unmistakably like the work of its director.
In the end, though, it’s Johansson, our resident avatar of the otherworldly, who goes the furthest in bringing all these disparate elements together. In “Her,” the actress gave voice to a higher, more sophisticated form of consciousness, and in “Under the Skin,” she managed the tricky feat of regarding humanity through alien eyes. In some ways, Lucy represents the point at which both roles converge, and Johansson has the unusually difficult job here of subtly conveying her character’s observations, reactions and eventual epiphanies in a mostly deadpan, flattened-out register that becomes only more subdued as the film progresses. Somehow, she succeeds beyond all reason.
I, for one, am excited to see a superhero story starring Scarlett Johansson. I’ve been asking Hollywood for more, and this weekend I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is. Will you be seeing Lucy?
Tricia Barr writes about Star Wars for Random House’s science fiction and fantasy blog Suvudu.com and Star Wars Insider magazine and is a contributor for Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Assembly of Geeks and RebelForce Radio Presents Fangirls Going Rogue. Tricia Barr’s novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook and has a superheroine. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
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