Lucy – A Film Retrospective

Lucy is a movie from 2014, written and directed by Luc Besson, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Scarlet Johansson has recently appeared in the live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, covering broadly similar territory.

The movie plays with the old chestnut of how humans only utilize 10 percent of their brain functions, and what might happen by slowly activating all the remaining percentage. This is an old cliché, technically based on a misunderstood comparison used by William James, and popularized by movies such as Limitless (2011) Flight of the Navigator (1986) and the television series Heroes, among many others.

Luc Besson (writer and director of the film The Fifth Element) tackles the topic with some pretty trippy visuals and effects, telling the story of a woman unwillingly kidnapped and used as a drug mule by criminals, who finds various mystery chemicals leaking into her bloodstream and prompting strange new experiences, and the awakening of unfamiliar abilities. Eventually, she finds herself able to read thoughts and start controlling things at a distance. After trying to seek the aid of a lecturer and Professor, Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) who tries to predict what will happen to her next, and also finds herself with a policeman in tow (Amr Waked) Before long, her new abilities begin to warp matter itself, with the complication that the chemical reactions are likely to be fatal before long. This is besides the rapid alteration of most of Lucy’s own body, as she re-configures her eyes and ears to perceive new sensations, or see radio waves.

Literature has also weighed in on the topic of enhanced brain capacity, such as the novel Flowers of Algernon by Daniel Keys, where the experimental enhancing of a mouse’s brain leads to a more bold transformation of a sub-normal human intellect’s brain, and all the unpredictable personal and social complications that causes.

The movie teases similar conflicts, with Lucy having more and more control over people and technology, and even planning to download her newfound knowledge into a special computer. The focus of the story though is mainly on her increasing distancing from the rest of humanity, and the acquisition of new powers that change her sense of limits, whilst also being quite scary. Eventually the barest trace of her body disappears, and the audience is left with an impressive of her omnipresence throughout the world, if only briefly.

By the time the credits role, the audience has been on a journey of pretty stimulating visuals and impressive feats, but Johansson can come across as fairly detached and almost uninvolved, which could be put down to a growing detachment from humanity. There is a degree of audience wish-fulfillment early on, but with a rising unsettling undercurrent. Some dark humour occasionally interjects into the proceedings, as Lucy goes after her tormentors and sets about stealing more of the drug. There is some thought provocation, but don’t expect the film to linger for long. It can still be a treat for the eyes though, and fast-moving entertainment.


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