So help me, the dude was practically dancing. So was his girlfriend. But then I was too.
We were in the theater parking lot Thursday night after the first local showing of Luc Besson’s “Lucy.”
He spotted my tell-tale yellow pad, made a not-so-wild guess about my profession and rushed to report to me his opinion of our shared audience experience. “ ‘Lucy’ is a muthah,” he said with a bit more street colloquial flavor than I’m reporting here.
“Lucy,” you’ll know if you’ve seen one of the best TV trailers of the year, is the one in which Scarlett Johansson plays a young party-hearty woman in Taiwan who accidentally ingests a synthetic drug allowing her to use ever-growing percentages of her brain while Morgan Freeman plays a sage scientist who looks on in amazement and compassion.
In the way-cool TV ad – a classic in an unpopular genre (whose sole purpose, of course, is to titillate) – we hear Freeman in his kindly Voice of God telling us what to expect as the percentage of her brain capacity increases by increments of 10 – total control over her body, that of others, the material world around her, etc.
If you’re one of those who consults the Rotten Tomatoes website, you’ll encounter how apparently tiny was the percentage of brain capacity used by many critics of the movie who didn’t seem to be able to see the delicious and exhilarating pop fantasy that it is.
It’s been my contention for years that a true appreciation and understanding of stupidity requires considerable intelligence. Conversely, it may be true that a truly exciting appreciation of limitless intelligence may require a good deal of merry stupidity.
That’s what the movie gives us. But in the preferred hopelessly synthetic intelligence of some, the movie requires serious wrestling with its sexual politics. Or it mandates solemn consideration of its obvious (and hilariously entertaining) takeoff on what Stanley Kubrick took so seriously in “2001.” And while we’re at it, let’s kick around its desire to concoct a giddy pop sci-fi fantasy metaphysical encounter of a woman who has suddenly acquired omniscience with the meaning of existence, as if Besson were presenting himself as some sort of Camembert metaphysician, laying on us all his most solemn ideas about the meaning of life and time.
No, no, no, no, you want to scream at all the knuckleheads with keyboards. He’s a wildly gifted pop fantasist who’s made entertainment out of playfully tossing crazily simplified pop science into the air with a whole bunch of Our Species’ Big Questions and mixing the whole salad with joyful automotive calisthenics in Paris and bullets spewing by the hundreds out of automatic weapons.
In the climax of the movie, for pity’s sake, our cerebronaut – who is approaching total omniscience by using ever-increasing amounts of her brain – is just about to get to the point where she understands fully how we’re all at one with the universe while the bad guy is skulking up behind her with a big old gun aimed at her head and the sweat pouring off his ugly, hairy face. I ask you. I mean, I ask you.
It was hilariously entertaining and had me leaving the theater and walking into the parking lot with a grin so broad I could have been Jack Nicholson’s stand-in on the original “Batman.” If I wasn’t quite dancing like the couple who walked into the parking lot 30 feet away from me, it’s because I tend to be a bit less terpsichorean in my happiness than some other people.
Besson can be a great movie entertainer. He’s also a specialist in the outrageous and there’s a lot – a whole lot – to enjoy about his films when he’s got his outrageous act together.
He is indeed partial to women as ultra-tough action heroes. (Remember “La Femme Nikita”?) And he likes to maximize sci-fi and comic book play with Big Ideas. (Remember “The Fifth Element”?) And, in his youth, he toyed with the idea of being a marine biologist so when he wants to season antic action goodies in his movies, he sometimes (as he does here) does so with ultra-cool pseudo-science. In this case, he does it with so much pseudo-pedagogical panache that he ought to be giving lessons to other filmmakers how such things are done.
Let people like Kubrick don prophet’s robes and offer serious pronunciamentos about the state of life, intelligence and artificial intelligence. Besson will don cap and bells and make action film jokes about life and the universe. He’s like the fool to Kubrick’s King Lear.
His first choice for the role of Persecuted Woman Who Suddenly Understands The Whole Universe was Angelina Jolie. She had higher ambitions and dropped out. So he called Johansson.
Whose every move is explained to us by Freeman.
Does this guy know how to make pop fantasies or what?
Forget the websites full of supposedly smart people modeling the latest dunce-cap fashions. Trust my dancing friend in the parking lot and his lady. And me smiling ear to ear a few feet away.
That’s how you want to feel leaving a summer movie.
Exactly like that.