If ‘Lucy’ was 10 percent smarter, it would be 100 percent better
“Lucy” is a sci-fi action thriller that thinks it’s smarter than it is. Or at least it wants us to think it’s smarter than it is.
My hunch is director Luc Besson knows exactly how “not smart” it is and doesn’t really care.
He’s more interested in the freedom its cockamamie science grants him as a filmmaker to completely ignore the laws of nature, of physics and biology. Mind over matter? Sure. Defy gravity? Of course. Time-travel? Why not? He uses that freedom to create some striking action set-pieces but in the end, it’s just not smart enough to be convincing.
It’s not for lack of trying. A neuroscientist played by Morgan Freeman (who else?) gives us an extended lecture, early in the film, on the limits of the human brain – that we use only 10 percent of our brain capacity; that if we could use 20 percent, we’d have greater control over ourselves; if 40 percent, we would have control over others; and at 60 percent, control over matter.
What happens at 100 percent? Freeman says, “I have no idea.” But Luc Besson does. Things get positively metaphysical.
All this speculative science gets played out in a thriller about an American student (played by Scarlett Johansson) who’s kidnapped, drugged, and given an impromptu surgery by an Asian drug ring.
They’ve implanted a large bag full of a synthetic hormone that mimics the initial growth spurt of a fetus. When the bag bursts inside her, she goes into a kind of human overdrive.
Her brain capacity begins to expand steadily. She morphs into a pseudo-superhero.
She spends the rest of the movie on dual tracks – trying to get a handle on what’s happening to her and trying to fend off the drug cartel.
The latter track is more successful but less interesting. The former is more interesting but less successful. If Luc Besson were 10 percent smarter, he’d have found a better balance.