Lucy. Over the last twenty-plus years, Besson has helmed some amazing films that prominently feature strong female characters, including La Femme Nikita (1990), Leon: The Professional (1994), and The Fifth Element (1997) and Lucy fits nicely into that category. Yet some of the reviews have been downright savage (Christopher Orr from The Atlantic really, really, REALLY hates it, for example). Most of the disgust hinges on two items that, quite frankly, didn't bug me at all, so let me get those out of the way and then try to convince you to give this smart, creative film a whirl.
1. Lucy takes as a core premise the idea that "humans only use 10% of their brains." OK, this just isn't true and we know it's not true. It's one of those urban legends that gets repeated over and over until most people believe it, which then irritates beyond belief anyone who knows anything about neuroscience and they've all come out to sputter and pontificate about what they know and what the movie gets wrong. This is where I patiently try to explain the difference between a "movie" and a "documentary." Never get your science from the movies and never get your law from TV. With that in mind, go have fun.
2. Then Lucy uses a plot device to propel the story - in this case, a synthetic form of PCH4, which is supposedly produced by pregnant women and permits the unborn child to rapidly grow a skeleton during normal gestation. Taken by a full-growed human, a tiny bit of PCH4 in Lucy makes you high, lotsandlots of it apparently catapults you to the next stage of consciousness. (Note: the drug here is not a "MacGuffin" [as is the Maltese Falcon in that film and the "letters of transit" in Casablanca] since in Lucy the drug not only actually does something; it's the engine for the entire film). Guess what? PCH4 is not a thing. For some reason, critics are incensed that PCH4 is made-up, yet I don't see the same level of sniffing condescension at gamma rays being misappropriated in the Hulk movies or the Curie Radiation Association getting all bent out of shape over Spider-Man's improbable origin story. (Psst - there's no "Curie Radiation Association." Don't tell the critics!)
Other criticisms involve Lucy's use of stock footage and an ongoing "percentage count" screen. I'm not even going there. Some things are a matter of taste and reasonable people can disagree about any piece of art (although someone who doesn't think Blazing Saddles is funny is a person best avoided. I'm just saying and the advice is free).
You got me. Maybe Lucy asks a little too much of a summer audience, but I don't think so. Very occasionally, I think other critics saw a different movie than the one I saw, or maybe they just had a fight with their boss before they went to the movie. At any rate, I thought Lucy was smart, fast-paced (it weighs in just under 90 minutes, which means I could almost watch it twice in the time it took me to suffer through The Movie Which Shall Not Be Named. And I'd cheerfully watch Lucy twice) and features some wonderful performances, especially Scarlett Johansson in the title role. Besson is not American and you can tell that - he's willing to slow things down, ask big questions, and use non-American actors. Some of that is to take advantage of growing Asian markets (several actors will be familiar to audiences of South Korean films), but it's also because Besson has a wider worldview than many American directors do.
I've often said that good science fiction is far more willing than "realistic" films to ask the Big Questions, including "What does it mean to be human?" and "What's beyond what we already know?" Lucy asks those questions and comes up with some very interesting answers, although (like many films) Lucy has a few plot holes. (How PCH4 actually works is one of them. If it helps a fetus grow a skeleton, what the heck does that have to do with consciousness? But by the time I thought of that, I was having too much fun to care.) Go see this one - it's good on the big screen, but it could wait until it's a rental. But when you see it, remember (although the film will remind you as well), Johanssen's Lucy is not the first one to serve as a bridge between two kinds of humans. What might humans become? It's an intriguing question and one Besson explores with humor and warning.