While there has been no lack of superhero or warrior type movies this year, in typical Hollywood fashion, there have been few strong female roles. So, if you’ve avoided testosterone-driven violence up to this point or are simply satiated, Luc Besson’s Lucy (played by Scarlett Johansson) may be a cool distraction from the summer heat. Billed as an action thriller, Lucy has the appeal of the superhero-ine genre, albeit accidental.
In fact, viewed under a summer movie social media analytics lens, many moviegoers say Lucy is on their same “movie bucket list” as blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, while others gloat that it has knocked out Hercules: “Never would have guessed that #LucyMovie would almost double the weekend box office grosses of #HerculesMovie. A high five to #GirlPower.”
The relatively low budget Lucy ($40 million) is also enjoying high social sentiment, as seen in our NetBase social media movie tracker chart below.
While Guardians may be top domestic grossing at $126.8 million, Lucy, with less than a quarter of Guardians’ $170 million production budget, is heating up the box office—grossing nearly $86.4 million domestically since release. Hercules— production budget $100 million—trails both films with $56.9 million.
The appeal of Lucy?
We love femmes fortes characters, and alas, Hollywood’s offerings of standalone kick-butt female superheroes is egregiously deficient. Lucy not only has telekinetic powers but controls time and space. It’s also been a while since French filmmaker Luc Besson treated us to one of his memorable leading ladies dangeureuses (La Femme Nikita; The Professional; The Fifth Element).
Another attraction is the techno sci-fi element and intrigue with human brain power and the fact that science only understands about 10% of how the brain functions (not as Lucy’s hypothesis purports that we use only 10% of our brain, debunked by science.) And, of course, Besson’s inimitable sense of style and cinematographic sorcery—visualize Johansson as she saunters through the airport in Leboutin stilettos while morphing her physical appearance to sidetrack her pursuers.
While some grouse about the obviously flawed science or lack of back-story, Lucy’s brain intrigue storyline—the mystery of neuronal memory, for instance—and visual appeal seem to trump the critics. Others are intrigued with the intricacy of the philosophical premise (“weirdly conceptual and thought-provoking”), prompting interest too in the spiritual and metaphysical subtexts. Actually, some of Besson’s brain concepts aren’t so farfetched and some can be found in ancient mind power healing meditation practices like Sat Nam Rasayan.
Even though many disliked the implausible ending of Lucy (“kind of Cosmos meets Transcendence”), my NetBase analysis shows a great deal of anticipation for the movie prior to release, interest in a sequel, as well as a high recommendation rate.
In France, Besson topped his first-day box office, grossing $3 million on Lucy’s first day of release. Even with a U.S. release head start of nearly two weeks before this week’s French release, French social commentary is already rich and textured. French audiences find Johansson’s character “fascinating,” and the concept “seductive.” And only two days since the French release, the social recommend rate at 12%, continues to climb, dwarfing that of the U.S.
Culturally, both French and U.S. audiences seem to share a lack of enthusiasm for Lucy’s ending, although both loved the otherworldliness of the film. Another common cultural sentiment in my analysis was fascination with Johansson’s physical transmutation to an energetic ethereal form, albeit not before downloading her infinite brain.
Undoubtedly, Besson’s techno sci-fi metaphysical Lucy will entertain global audiences and probably cause some neuroscientists to quake. But, as the box office shows, popular sentiment is definitively more aligned with the ethereal Lucy and galactic Guardians themes than a mere mortal named Hercules.