Lucy Review: Cerebral Callings

Bracing herself in the airplane seat as it is preparing to land in Paris, Lucy toasts herself with a flute of champagne. “To knowledge,” she whispers. And then she begins to disintegrate.

Lucy (2014) has so far been met with disappointingly average reviews (and, in some cases, outright hate). I blame the let down on the film’s marketing. We were told to go watch a vengeful superhuman rail against her drug-dealing kidnappers, and instead, found a human-turned-deity looking for her new purpose. Basically, people were expecting Limitless (2011) redone, but with Scarlett Johansson instead of Bradley Cooper.

Wrong, folks. Sorry. Don’t do that to yourselves. Of course, I cannot speak for director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element (1997), Taken (2008)), but this movie viewed more like a cerebral sci-fi flick than an action-filled superhero tale. Sure, there is plenty of action, but even Morgan Freeman’s character Dr. Norman said so himself that all this is but philosophical musing.

Nevertheless, I can imagine philosophers disagreeing as well. The deluge of ideas end up a bit jumbled and, like the changes to Lucy’s brain, bombard you without relent. It’s almost too much; it feels disjointed. Likewise, biologists can just leave their education at the door. From the first sequence, I already knew the scientific basis was wispy at best. (C’mon, CGI people, where was the metaphase and anaphase in all that mitosis, huh?) Luckily, I like cerebral-type films. Sci-fi even more so, and I had little problem suspending my disbelief in favor of the thought-provoking questions presented.

To recap, Johansson plays a young woman named Lucy who gets yanked into some very dangerous circumstances. Her name is meant to echo that of the hominid “Lucy,” aka AL 288-1, a female Australopithecus afarensis. In 1974, 3.2 million-year-old bones were found showing the earliest signs of bipedalism—i.e. walking on two legs. Thus, Lucy (the fossil) is said to be the evolutionary link between chimps and human ancestors. In the same vein, Lucy (the protagonist) is supposed to be the link between homo sapiens sapiens and…whatever comes next for us.

(OK, surprise anthropology lesson END.)

After the bag of CPH4 ruptures inside her abdomen, Lucy overcomes the humans-use-only-10%-of-their-brain trope and reaches 20%. As the movie progresses, whenever the percentage increases, so do Lucy’s abilities. Manipulating matter, controlling electromagnetic waves, accessing other people’s memories, Transfiguration shapeshifting, and eventually, time.

Time is the only true unit of measure, it gives proof to the existence of matter, without time, we don’t exist.  –Lucy

I truly think the film is better viewed as a foray into . . . eh, not exactly the “what’s” of human evolution, but the “why’s.” Would it really be a good thing if humans could utilize more of their brain (ignore the pseudoscience for a moment and go with me, here)? What would we do with all that knowledge? Destroy ourselves? Become gods and meld seamlessly into the universe? Ascend like the Ancients (yea, I threw in a Stargate reference, what)?

Admittedly, the movie’s final answer to the questions above crosses a weird line, reminding me a bit of Venom from Spiderman — yea, it was kinda strange, but that’s Luc Besson for ya. However, I am satisfied with it as a whole. Besson gave the viewer clear sides of the issue. The antagonist Mr. Jang, played by Min-sik Choi, represents ignorance and our own human tendency to sabotage ourselves before achieving greatness. Conversely, Dr. Norman puts aside greed and aspirations for immortality in favor of passing on Lucy’s knowledge to the rest of the world.

Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge.  –Lucy

To be honest, for a film like this, I’m not surprised there were so many mixed reactions. Life views vary quite a lot from person to person, so naturally, what you take away from Lucy might not adhere to anything I’ve said so far. The one thing I am sure about however is this: If you like Scarlett Johansson’s run of starring roles lately, you’ll like her in this one.

The beginning, in particular — I mean, damn, Johansson evoked some visceral responses there. Lucy starts out as a typical student abroad, studying for exams, dating men, bar-hopping, whatever. But being a drug mule and coming face-to-face with murderous Korean gang members? Shiiit. Johansson showcased her acting chops like a boss during that scene. I could feel her terror. Plus, the depth of her fear contrasted perfectly with her absence of “hindering” emotions after the CPH4 change.

I don’t feel pain, fear, desire. It’s like all things that make us human are fading away. –Lucy

(And even then, was the sacrifice of emotion for knowledge truly worth it? – Ah, but I’m not getting into that right now; this review’s already long enough.)

So, watch it for the acting, the sci-fi, the thoughts – whatever you want to do (watch it stoned?). Just indulge in its metaphysical notions and let me know what you thought below. Thanks!

Rating: Makes you think, and I like that. But the end result isn’t quite cohesive enough to be mind-blowing. C

ASV Villainy Rating: WF
By 100% neural capacity, um, CPH4 cellular infection, ah fuck it, blue stoner powder power, she’s basically a god so yea . . . 

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