Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Movie Review: Lucy (2014) by Luc Besson

Lucy (2014) written and directed by Luc Besson

Lucy is an imaginative movie about the power of the human brain. Starting from the premise that humans only use 10% of their brain matter (a questionable premise to be sure), writer and director Luc Besson weaves a tale of a pretty and average young woman named Lucy living in Taipei. She lives a party life but her new boyfriend (they've known each other for a week) gets her into trouble when he gets her to deliver a briefcase to some shady characters in a hotel. Said characters kill the boyfriend and kidnap Lucy, forcing her to take a kilo of an experimental recreational drug in her stomach back home. Three other guys have a pack of drugs put in their stomachs and are headed to Europe. As she is hustled to the airport a rival gang grabs her and as they are beating her up, they accidentally rupture the bag and a massive dose of the drug enters her system.

The overdose doesn't kill her. Instead, it enhances her brains' ability to use itself, escalating to higher levels where she can repair and change her own body (like instantly changing her hair color at the airport when she needs to) and can influence other living beings and even the objects both near and far from her. She pursues the other drug carriers and Dr. Norman (played with proper gravitas by Morgan Freeman), a neuroscientist who has been working on theories of what enhanced brain usage would encompass.

The first third of the movie intercuts Lucy's story with a lecture given by Dr. Norman which outlines what's going to happen to Lucy as she becomes more powerful. The lecture is quite grandiose (referencing evolution's history from the first hominid) and far-fetched. Scientifically and philosophically it's just plain bonkers but it establishes the rules of this world neatly. Lucy grows in power, doing more fantastic things and sensing everything, including the flow of sap through trees and the lines of information going from cell phones into the sky. She develops amazing fighting skills (it's a Luc Besson film, after all) and control over all the fundamental forces of nature. What will she do with so much power and will the shady characters from the beginning of the movie get their drugs back?

Thematically, this movie reminded very much of Besson's The Fifth Element, in which Milla Jovovich's character is referred to as "the supreme being" because she has lots of extra DNA packed into her cells, giving her extraordinary powers. She struggles with her humanity and her nearly God-like powers and she is destined to save the Earth. Lucy is clearly becoming a God-like being who can manipulate reality (not only physical objects but even time itself) and can help save the Earth by using her power to give more knowledge to humanity. Both films have an underlying desire to explore and explain the transcendence of human nature over the rest of nature. While I find the conclusions wrong, the effort is still a lot more interesting than the B-movie trappings of the rest of the film.

The premise, however, is completely ridiculous. Neuroscientists have all sorts of opinions about how much of their brains people actually use and the idea that telekinesis or telepathy or more amazing powers would result from using more of the human brain is just wishful thinking. If the viewer can suspend disbelief for that (which I was able to), the movie is enjoyable with a mixture of crazy and interesting ideas plus a fun visual storytelling style.

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