No, this isn’t a movie about a malevolent, crabby little girl who gets her ya-ya’s off by pulling a football away from a chubby, round-headed boy just as he’s about to kick it. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s not about that.
Lovely Scarlett Johansson is Lucy, an innocent student in Taiwan who accidentally gets mixed up with Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), a dangerous Taiwanese drug lord who’s about to introduce a brand new drug called CPH4. She and three other “volunteers” are cut open and surgically stuffed with small bags of this drug to be delivered to other countries. BUT! A problem occurs when the baggie inside Lucy starts to leak out and the drug has a bizarre effect on her. Faster than you can say “X-Men”, Lucy’s brain capacity is bumped from the normal 10% to 30%. And it’s growing…
Instantly she can see through walls, pick up languages in a matter of minutes, and feels no pain, fear, or any human emotion. She gets the leaky baggie removed and calculates that she only has a few days left to live, unless she can get hold of the three remaining bags for sustenance. Lucy then contacts Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), a lecturer on man’s evolution, and tells him she’s evolving at a rapid rate and needs to divulge her feelings and knowledge to him.
She goes to back to Mr. Jang, takes out his cronies, and finds out the other baggies (and “mules”) locations. She hops a flight to Paris and contacts French detective Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), a drug cop who, thanks to Lucy’s boosted 40% brain power, gets the other three mules caught and extradited to Paris to have the baggies removed. BUT! Mr. Jang shows up with a new hoard of armed bad guys for the same baggies and the fun begins!
With a major shoot-out going on at a University between the police and Jang’s goons, Professor Norman and his colleagues take a huge risk and distill the remaining CPH4, injecting the serum into Lucy so she can push her brain from 70% to 99%. The ending, while spectacular and surprising, has a climax that is, well, anti-climatic and leaves it wide open for a possible sequel.
Reminiscent of the recent movie, Transcendence, Luc Besson wrote and directed this quick little (only 89 minutes) sci-fi/graphic novel-ish movie with a quirky feel to it and we get a chance to see Johansson NOT kick ass this time, like she does as the Avenger’s Black Widow. Of course, when you’re packing heat or can mentally throw guys around with your mind, why bother? She’s simply wonderful, starting off like a frightened rabbit and, as the drugs kick in, becoming a human computer; cold, calculating, and monotone, towing along Det. Del Rio as her link to the human world. The story didn’t take a different path like I thought it would, such as: a second CPH4 person who fights Lucy on her own ground (although that would have been WAY cool), or Lucy becoming violent and wanting to destroy “the inferior humans”. No, it kept on track and delivered a straight-line plot with no deviation.
Freeman is fine as Professor Norman who pretty much just stares and acts all confused and amazed, so no Oscar worthy stuff here. The real deal here are the nifty SPFX and Besson’s unique style of direction. He even flashes narrative imagery to enhance the moments, like when Lucy is captured by Jang and offered a job, there’s a quick cut to a mouse crawling towards a deadly mousetrap and some cheese. There’s no need to know what that imagery means!
Lucy had her brain powers gone wild, but what about the same for a teenage animated boy? Japanese anime is far and above the best mainstream, single episode Japanese anime movie for its time. Startling for it’s daring story, shocking use of graphic violence, and explosion imagery, Akira is Disney on crack.
Based on the cult manga publication, it’s after WW3 in 1988, and “Neo-Tokyo” is rebuilt thirty-one years later on the ashes of the old city. The city is gleaming and decaying at the same time with industrial pollution and motorcycle gangs running amok. Gang member, Kaneda, leads the Capsule’s Gang to fight against the rival gang known as The Clowns. However, Kaneda’s best friend, Tetsuo Shima, nearly crashes his motorcycle into Takashi, a runaway child from a secret government laboratory run by an shady organization.
Takashi is re-captured by soldiers and Tetsuo is taken into custody and hospitalized at a secret facility. While recovering, Col. Shikishima and Doctor Onishi discover that Tetsuo possesses hidden psychic capabilities similar to Takashi and other test subjects. . . test subjects that were exposed to an alien virus (called “Akira”) and had some results like telekinesis and being able to see into the future. But when Tetsuo is exposed, his psychic readings go off the charts; dangerously off the charts! Tetsuo then goes on a violent, bloody rampage, intent on killing whatever it was that gave him the power… and woe to anyone who gets in his way!
Kaneda and the Colonel are unable to stop Tetsuo’s mind-controlling lethal swath, destroying anything and everyone in his path as he walks toward the new Olympic Stadium’s construction ground and home to the Akira project. Kaneda even tries using a lasergun, but that only pisses Tetsuo off. Finally, Tetsuo is blasted with an energy beam from an orbiting space station gun, but Tetsuo only expands into a hideous, deformed and gigantic thing that…
The ending is weird, confusing, and downright strange. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, this groundbreaking, lavish, non-CGI anime is impressive by it's mere scope and imaginative design. The characters are fleshed out and have genuine feelings, more so than in other U.S. animated features. And damn! Does the blood flow in this! The destruction and violence are plentiful as is the fluid animation, which is, by the way, all hand-drawn!
P.S. IF you do rent this (and I really hope you do) don't switch over to the American dubbed version. It sucks. Listen to the true Japanese voice-overs in all their glory. Trust me, it'll be worth it.