Lucy (2014)

Lucy is not what I expected. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional, La Femme Nikita), this one has his distinctive stamp all over it. But I was impressed with what was underneath the excessive style Besson usually beats us over the head with.

I'm not sure why, but the science fiction genre as a whole tends to vilify advancements in knowledge and technology. I guess this is because those advancements are commentary on the human condition. As such we often get examples of how technology leads to a catastrophe or an apocalyptic world. Or we get some wild experimentation that should never have been done in the first place that creates something that is unstoppable and/or monstrous.

Oh, and god forbid should a human access untapped levels of brain power or ascend to godhood. Because in nearly every case, as that empowered person changes, they quickly realize how small and insignificant the human race is, and their detachment leads to the desire to destroy us. Or at the very least to withhold all that amazing insight they have gained, because we are far too primitive to handle it.

Don't get me wrong, I love science fiction. But the tropes can get a little repetitive and preachy. The plot of Lucy, although paradoxically wrapped in several clich├ęs, tends not follow the normal and expected plot devices of the genre. Our heroine does slowly grow more and more detached, but at the heart of her transformation is a humanity that speaks to what we could become on a long enough timeline. She isn't heartless, she isn't superior, she simply is. Her desires are dictated not by power, but by knowledge.

Of course all this deeper stuff is packaged in slick eye popping visual effects and a bunch of mumbo-jumbo pseudo-science that has gotten a lot of flack in the media. The plot device is no more of a stretch than most movie science, though. Basically, the idea is that we only use 10% of our mental capacity (which is bunk science, but so what). This 'percentage' of mental capacity is then used as a narrative marker, a shorthand for the audience to understand what is happening to our heroine. Bunk or not, it is an effective way of illustrating the progression of her power.

For me the whole premise brings up a number of neat ideas. What would happen if our mental processes were super-charged? What would we be able to do? Could we control our bodies to the level where we could heal ourselves? Could we read minds, or move things without touching them? What if we could project ourselves or our consciousness through time and space? What are our upper limits? Of course that also carries with it the conceit that we are already at the pinnacle of our evolution. That our brain is already to the point where it can do anything, we just need to learn how to unlock it.

That is perhaps a bit deep for a film review, but I guess when something ignites your imagination there's nothing wrong with a little bit of fun conjecture and discussion. Sure, the film isn't perfect and I'm not entirely sure there was a plot. The characters were mostly just stock archetypes, and the only real performance was from Scarlett Johansson. Early on, Lucy has a conversation with her mother, and it was so well done that I actually got a little upset. I guess she can act after all.

Overall, this was just a short, slick, fast paced action movie with a fun sci-fi premise. Thing is, there was some deeper stuff buried beneath the gloss, and it was those things that drew me in and kept me entertained like all the best sci-fi does. One last thing, Morgan Freeman is in this, and his character is as much of an afterthought as this last sentence is.

3 out of 4 Bags of blue miracle drugs.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.

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