Can Scarlett carry one by herself? I guess now would be the time to find out, after a quintet of critically and/or financially successful releases in the last 10 months. That’s some work rate. They were, in order of North American release, “Don Jon”, “Her”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “Under the Skin” and “Chef”. I’ve reviewed the first four right here on the blog—all of them positively, with one being my #1 favorite film of 2013. Another is strong in the race for my 2014 top spot on my year-end Top Ten. That film(“Under the Skin”)is the only one that can realistically be called a case of “all up to Scarlett”, but it never had much commercial potential, and it was shoehorned in to a handful of theaters on the same day that “Cap 2” arrived on four thousand screens. It sure is fantastic though. But next month’s “Lucy” is a different matter. Expectations are far higher for the potential summer blockbuster. It’s action-oriented, and it boasts the “return” of former French wunderkind Luc Besson. So, there’s a lot riding on this for both.
Mr. Besson never really went anywhere, but his director duties have been sporadic, at best, since 1999’s “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”. That ambitious project failed with critics and audiences. But his back-to-back-to-back streak of 1991’s “La Femme Nikita”, 1994’s “Leon: The Professional” and 1997’s “The Fifth Element” cemented Luc’s status, after also helming a couple of 1980’s art-house hits while he was still in his twenties. “La Femme Nikita”(simply “Nikita” upon its French release in 1990)was praised by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel when it arrived in English-subtitle form in April of 1991. It spawned an American remake(1993’s “Point of No Return” with Bridget Fonda)and TWO television series. Its spiritual sequel, “The Professional”(French title: “Leon”), expanded on Jean Reno’s minor character from “Nikita”, while also providing a showcase for the meteoric rise of a then 12-year-old Natalie Portman. The film landed on many year-end Top Ten Lists. Then the sci-fi epic, “The Fifth Element” garnered 263 million dollars internationally in 1997 with Bruce Willis as its star. But accolades have been paltry for Besson ever since.
So, there’s a lot riding on this for both director and star. Besson could use a hit to show that he still has the touch behind the camera, and Johansson looks to prove that she can carry a big-budget summer actioner all by herself. Hey, if Angelina Jolie can do it, maybe Scarlett can too. If the above trailer is any indication, I eagerly await the results. “Lucy” arrives in U.S. theaters on July 25th.