Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Lucy vs. Interstellar, two films featuring symbolically weighty protagonists that use science fiction to highlight the unfairness of chance and circumstance.
PremiseLucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a nice, blonde young woman who, she assures everyone, has “done nothing wrong.” In spite of her allegedly squeaky-clean record, Lucy somehow finds herself in the custody of some scary-looking and scarily silent Asian men and one evil British man (because, of course) with a tummy full of drugs. “We’ve merely slipped a package into your lower tummy,” explains the British man holding up Lucy’s passport. “And you’re going to transport something very special for us.” The drugs leak into Lucy’s system and enable her to access a constantly increasing percent of her brain. Lucy becomes super-humanly intelligent and a little bitter, and develops telekinetic powers—she is a mad, bad genius on the lam. A drug that allows a person to access all of her brainpower—whoever heard of such a thing? Oh, wait, we did when we watched the mediocre 2011 Bradley Cooper thriller Limitless. And before that, when we pretended to read Flowers for Algernon. The Interstellar premise also includes some familiar plot devices: in the not-so-distant future the earth has run out of a very necessary material (in this case it’s food, but it could just as easily be water as in Young Ones, babies as in Children of Men, or the elderly as in Logan’s Run). Matthew McCounaghey plays Cooper, an engineer/former pilot living on a rural farm with his you daughter, Murphy (after Murphy’s Law). Cooper is recruited for a special space mission to scout out a new, resource-rich planet for earthlings to live on. Nobody needs an engineer, he’s told, “We didn’t run out planes and television sets, we ran out of food.” If only for that pithy line, we’re going with Interstellar.Advantage: Interstellar
Life’s Not FairSometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, like become a drug mule or an astronaut. Why? Because people suck and life’s not fair. This harsh reality is at the center of both films. Neither option is particularly appealing, and both have a high risk of getting lots of people killed. That said, while Lucy is demonized, Cooper is canonized: should he die, Cooper will be remembered as a hero for his actions. Perhaps someone will offer take in young Murphy.Advantage: Interstellar
Biblical UndertonesFor some reason, society can’t seem to move on from biblical tropes. Here, we have two good examples: the Jesus-like man who must sacrifice his needs (getting to live on his nice if barren farm with his young daughter) for the greater good, and the easily corruptible, untrustworthy woman who must be punished for a night of hedonistic fun (i.e. a night at the club where she was drugged). Neither film deserves an advantage for being unimaginative but, if we must pick, we’ll go with Jesus.Advantage: Interstellar
DirectorChristopher Nolan and Luc Besson are both well-respected directors. Both of them also write screenplays: Nolan co-wrote Interstellar with his brother, Luc Besson wrote Lucy; Nolan is credited as writing the story for Man of Steel, Besson brought us popular thrillers such as Taken, The Transporter, and 3 Days to Kill. Both have seen better days: Nolan arguably peaked in the mid 2000s, following Memento (great), The Prestige (also great), and the Dark Knight (you can probably guess). Besson peaked in the mid-’90s. Advantage: Interstellar
Leading ActorsWe love Scarlett Johansson, and we love her the most when she’s playing an intelligent badass. That said, we feel invested in Matthew McConaughey’s bid to become a serious actor, and we hope he doesn’t screw it up with this film.Advantage: Interstellar
The Best of the RestBacking up Johansson are Analeigh Tipton and Morgan Freeman. Interstellar‘s supporting cast includes Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Ellen Burstyn, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace, and Wes Bentley. While Analeigh Tipton is lovely, Morgan Freeman lost a little bit of our trust when he appeared in Olympus Has Fallen last year (White House Down was better). Anne Hathaway is also often in terrible films, and we lost interest in Wes Bentley in 2001 when he made the truly horrendous teen slasher film Soul Survivors (we’ve forgiven Casey Affleck). That said, Burstyn, Chastain, Lithgow, Oyelowo, and Caine are more than enough to sway the scales in Interstellar‘s favor.Advantage: Interstellar
The VerdictWe do not think Lucy will be a terrible film. However, with Matthew McConaughey on his hot streak, a solid supporting cast and director, and no obvious Eve/Delilah character, Interstellar is our winner. Winner: Interstellar