TLDR: Lucy, a super-sexed girl-next-door, goes on the ultimate power fantasy, as justified by a 13-year-old boy’s rule-of-cool in a movie that fails due to motivational mismatch.
I don’t usually do this, but I’ll review a movie that didn’t work to show why. Also, because otherwise I’d have lost an hour of my life (I skimmed a lot through all the obvious parts).
Synopsis: Lucy is an exchange student in Taiwan, where she is tricked into delivering a case of drugs to a big drug lord. There, she is abused and cut open to become a drug mule with a bag of drugs hidden inside her abdomen.
So far, the movie is a standard thriller: Lucy is forced into a bad situation, the situation gets worse, and everything she does to stay alive and escape is completely inadequate. She’s running while tied to a wall (literally). If you can forgive the cross-cut hunting and lecture scenes, it’s actually a fairly standard setup with some nice cinematography.
But then things change.
In captivity, Lucy is abused some more to break the bag of drugs inside her, and instead of dying, and gains superpowers, which she uses to escape, invade a hospital, and get the remains of the drug bag operated out of her stomach.
Lucy has achieved her goals of escaping the Chinese maffia, and gained the reward of superpowers. Her arc has ended, and so should the movie.
But it doesn’t. In fact, we’re barely at the midpoint in terms of movie time (this all happens at the 45-minute mark.)
This takes us into the second part of the movie where a telekinetic and telepathic Lucy gets in touch with a professor of superpowers on the other side of the world, and this is where the movie fails, structure-wise.
While we’ve been getting occasional flashes of the professors lecture on the 10% of the brain-myth (basically that humans, if we could use more than 10% of our brain, would gain superpowers,) we haven’t gotten any foreshadowing to Lucy’s further goals.
In fact, she’s suffering from the “created on page one” problem – she has no backstory, other than the trope of party girl, no goal, no context. She’s gained superpowers, and there’s nothing she has to do with them.
Instead, Lucy spends the rest of the movie running from the Chinese king-pin (whom she spared for some inexplicable reason,) killing, and generally destroying things while gaining humongous superpowers, starting with super-senses, telekinesis, technology manipulation, mind reading and destruction, and ending with time travel and general godhood.
That’s not a story, it’s a list of power fantasies.
Omitting the obvious logic and internal consistency fallacies, such as “if Lucy can take over any technology, and has telekinesis enough to glue the bad guys to the ceiling, why does she need to drive through Paris traffic?” there is no motivation for Lucy. She’s simply there, gaining more powers while people get killed.
That’s not a plot. That’s simply window dressing.
If you’ve ever had problems with your plots not going anywhere, or your endings feeling flat, I suggest you spend an hour watching Lucy, and mark the 45-minute mark. See what happens with the plot, and with your interest in the movie. Watch your own reactions watching it.
I promise, it will give you insights into your own writing.
Luck and Persistence!