Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014)
I’m sure scientists the world over cringed when they first saw the trailer for Lucy, which perpetuates the myth that human beings only use 10% of their brains. This myth has long since been discredited, and even director and screenwriter Luc Besson is aware of that fact. But who’s to let that get in the way of a good story?In the early scenes of Lucy, we hear parts of a lecture from Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) who presents the 10% myth as scientific fact. He hypothesises about what the brain would be capable of at 20%, 40%, and can barely fathom what 100% brain capacity would involve. Meanwhile in Taiwan, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) unwittingly becomes a drug mule, with a pouch of a cognitive-enhancing substance inserted into her abdomen. When the pouch bursts, an excessive dose spreads through her body, increasing her brain capacity which gradually builds to 100%. Apparently this means she can control others, time-travel and turn into gross slimy stuff. Almost like Alex Mack! But more bad-ass.
Lucy becomes superhuman almost instantly – when she is at 28% she already has powers of telekinesis, the ability to translate languages, thorough medical knowledge that goes beyond that of trained surgeons, and memories of pretty much everything from birth, among other things. She has the power to get her own way from the get go and this does mean the film lacks some tension. We know she’s never going to be stuck in any particularly difficult situations and that makes it somewhat difficult to care about her. There’s a detective (Amr Waked) thrown into the mix so we have someone to fret about, but he’s never really at the forefront of our minds.
Though the science is not to be taken seriously, there are some interesting themes at play in Lucy. In the real world, much is still unknown about the human brain, and the potential for greater brain function is not wholly implausible. Lucy plays with the idea of what it is to be human, and raises questions about whether greater brain capacity would even aid humanity. Based on the little that is known about the brain, a lack of fear and inability to feel pain would be hugely detrimental. There’s also a few deep and meaningful statements about time which seemed to have some truth to them but need to be taken with a grain of salt. Lucy spends more time than most science fiction films attempting to explain the science behind its concepts, which could be viewed as either a positive or a negative. I personally find the ultra brief explanations of some other sci-fi films (e.g. Transcendence) a cop-out. On the other hand, Lucy may have been taking itself a little too seriously, and the excessive attempts to justify itself may turn some viewers off.
Clearly, Lucy is a flawed film. And yet, in spite all its flaws, it was good fun. It had high energy, fun visuals, and a kick-arse female lead. There are also a few splashes of comedy, though I’m unsure whether all of this was intentional. I repeatedly shook my head in amusement at the utter absurdity of what I was witnessing, but that needn’t be an altogether bad thing. If it amuses, it’s doing something right. Let go of logic for a few hours, and enjoy the somewhat ludicrous ride.