Is it me or are The Rock and Scarlett Johansson wearing the same lion wig in the above image? This weekend’s new movie brawlers are comprised of the former professional wrestler turned half-god going against a husky-voiced femme fatale who is able to use 100% of her brain. I have a feeling I am about to lose brain cells writing both of these reviews. Also, be warned, I saw these two movies as a double-feature. These will be some interesting reviews.
No, you’re not wrong. There was a Hercules movie released earlier this year. The Legend of Hercules was released earlier this year, during the movie dumping grounds of the Spring season. That movie starred Kellan Lutz as a young demi-god using his strength to fight for freedom. Now, we have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the titular character. This version of the character is a mercenary fighting alongside his friends on a job to protect the small kingdom of Thrace.
I don’t even feel right in judging this movie. It aims so low, that it almost feels wrong to tear it apart. Critiquing Hercules is like breaking down the weaknesses of a Saturday morning cartoon. This is the kind of movie that was made for the $5 bin at Walmart. There is an audience for this type of movie. These people just enjoy watching harmless movies for the fun of it. Greatness is not expected, nor is it delivered.
Can we talk for a minute about The Rock? I mean, think about it, the guy is bulletproof. Let’s take a look at his body of work: The Scorpion King, Doom, The Game Plan, Tooth Fairy, Fast Five (and beyond), G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Pain & Gain, among a few others. None of these movies have been particularly good. In fact, most have been quite terrible. His agent should immediately be fired. However, his attachment to any movie brings unwarranted excitement from the general public.
I’d venture that his natural charisma makes the guy so darn likable. The same thing happened during his heyday in the WWE. Even when he attempted to be the heel (the bad guy), he was so good at it, that the audience couldn’t help but love him.
Even now, he is hinting at playing a major DC character (Shazam) and the press is all over it. Wouldn’t, by his past evidence, the mere fact that The Rock is going to be in it mean that Shazam will be terrible? I tend to think it will.
Imagine if Tom Cruise made a movie like Snitch or Hercules. Every critic and entertainment site out there would gladly proclaim that his career is over. Yet, The Rock survives every bad movie and only seems to be getting more popular.
Now back to Hercules. The marketing has been all wrong. Based on the clips of Hercules fighting a hydra, giant boar and lion, you’d think that this movie follows Hercules’ 12 trials based on the popular myths. But, those visually-striking scenes happen in the first 5 minutes. And even they are shown as tongue-in-cheek stories. Hercules, instead, is entirely human. I’m completely fine with the idea that his legend has only grown as time goes on, but some viewers may come to this movie expecting another Clash of the Titans. Instead, they’ll only get something akin to Pompeii. I wish the screenwriters made up their mind about who Hercules really is. They tell us he’s normal, but then he manages to flip horses over without breaking a sweat.
This is a very small story. It feels like it could be a good set-up at best. Hercules admits to his adoring fans that he could not complete his adventures without the help of his friends. When this movie is enjoyable, it’s due largely to the help he gets from the supporting cast. Rufus Sewell gets all the funny lines. Which is refreshing, as he normally plays the villain in every project he’s involved in. Also, Ian McShane lends the movie some credibility by playing the mystic sage of the group. This movie could have easily been called The Hercules Squad.
Don’t worry about seeing this movie. It’s very predictable. It’s also not as fun as it could have been. It’s time for Hercules with a side of camp. I would pay good money to see Sam Raimi work with Kevin Sorbo again in an older Hercules adventure.
This version of Hercules was just a glossy excuse to give Brett Ratner a job again. Skip it.
With Lucy, as long as you realize that you’re going into a ‘dumb science’ movie, it will be a better experience and you won’t take it too seriously.
Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, a naive tourist who gets caught up in a botched drug delivery to some powerful drug traffickers. Her wrong-place, wrong-time situation gets worse as these men sew a packet of the latest drug in her stomach with the intent that she’ll be a drug mule. After getting kicked in the gut, the pack breaks open in her belly and she is exposed to lethal doses of this untested drug. Instead of killing her, this drug gradually enhances her brain power. Her story plays side-by-side as Professor Morgan Freeman gives a lecture about the potential evolution of the human brain.
At 20% brain power, she is able to change her hair color. At 40% brain power, Lucy is able to push cars with her brain. At 60%, she is able to control other people. At somewhere around 80% brain power, she is able to disregard any plot holes or rules that the movie sets up. Basically, the movie does whatever it wants, whenever it wants and waves its hand by saying “This is possible because…..brains.”
Much like the trailers for Hercules, the trailers for Lucy are advertising a slightly different movie. Lucy is disguised as an action movie, but plays out more like an existential journey with a car chase thrown in here and there.
As dumb as Lucy gets, and it does get incredibly dumb, you will find that you’re never quite bored. You genuinely want to know what kinds of abilities Lucy will discover next. Sadly, when she apathetically does her newest trick, you just scratch your head and go with it, for better or worse.
This movie gives Johansson an excuse to stop acting altogether. As soon as her brain power starts taking effect, she becomes emotionless and does her best impression of Data from Star Trek for the duration. This android sensibility isn’t helped by her already monotone voice.
As silly as this movie is, in theory, you can tell that Luc Besson actually cared about it. He splices in shots of nature and familiar images that immediately invoke particular emotions in the audience. For example, in the opening scene, Lucy feels paranoid about the drug delivery. Meanwhile, we see footage of a gazelle being stalked by a pack of cheetahs. It works. It feels European, but it works.
To discuss the silliness, I’m going to have to go into spoilers. The movie falls apart, yet probably thinks it’s coming together, at the end. It becomes incredibly ambitious, but it’s such a WTF move, that you roll your eyes while respecting the attempt. In the end, Lucy is about to reach 100% brain power. Apparently, at that level of brain strength you become a humanoid computer with all the knowledge of the galaxies. You can teleport anywhere in the world. As the audience, you’ve lost so many brain cells at this point, you just go with it. At 100%, Lucy becomes one with the universe, 2001: A Space Odyssey style. She travels back through time to see the dinosaurs, the first primate and eventually witnesses/becomes the Big Bang.
In the last scene, she has disappeared from our reality and has created a future supercomputer. Because, why not. She intends to pass on her knowledge to Professor Freeman. She does this in the form of a space flash drive. Literally, it’s made out of space. You can even see the stars in it. Shame it’s probably only a 2GB USB drive. Also, when the cop, who has been along for the ride, asks where she went, his phone replies “I am everywhere.”
From this, we can only assume that Lucy is the prequel to Her.
Lucy is nothing if not ambitious. Don’t go into this expecting Johansson to wield her X-Men powers in many battles. It’s basically a story of accidentally taking drugs and looking for more drugs so you can reach 100% of your brain’s capabilities. In essence it teaches us that if you need help cramming your a major test in school, you should probably take a ton of untested drugs. I’m only kidding, but the movie isn’t.
Oh, also the drug is based on the cell reproduction that happens when a woman is six weeks pregnant. This substance is what gives fetuses the ability to form bones and the like. So yeah…..science.
Just go into Lucy expecting to see an odd and ambitious movie and it’ll be worth renting. At the end, you’ll scratch your head and say “what the weird” but it’s almost worth watching just for that feeling of ambivalent confusion.