Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn


We went to see "Lucy," Scarlett Johansson's one-shot super-being film, and enjoyed it, with the exception of the gratuitous and over-long car-crash sequence. (One could think the by-then super-intelligent heroine could have plotted a less destructive course--.)
One thing that frustrates me is the "10%" thing, which falls into the category of scripts that could have been fixed by putting in (or taking out) about one line of dialog. Of course, we all know that the "we only use about 10% of our brain" idea has been long discredited. To be fair, that isn't exactly what Morgan Freeman's character, Professor Norman, says. He actually talks about "ten percent of cerebral capacity," which puts it into the handwaving category, since I don't think anyone has measured or understands what "cerebral capacity" is or could be.
The old SF and metaphysical trope is that if a human could have conscious control of all that the brain could do, they would be a superbeing, or at least, a supermind. This is assumed to be a sort of an operating system upgrade, allowing us to make better use of the existing hardware.
However, even that is not what's happening to Lucy, the overseas student/slacker whose sleazy boyfriend gets her entangled with a drug gang. After exposure to massive amounts of an artificial growth hormone, she tells Norman that her brain is "adding millions of neurons per second." Neurons are cells that process and transmit information, so what's really happening to her is a huge hardware upgrade. So, what she's really ending up with is not a normal brain made ten times more efficient, she has an enhanced brain that is ten times more capable than a normal brain, which is a significant distinction. In an interview on 08/03/2014 (evening news on France 2), Luc Besson<> admitted that he knew that some scientific assumptions were erroneous, e.g. that humans use only 10% of their brain. Nonetheless, he said that "[such assumption] would be a great start for a sci-fi movie".
If you take the premise as being that enhancing the human brain may result in reality-altering powers, yes, I admit that is a great start, but it could have been couched more artfully.
That said, one you suspend disbelief about the nature of the brain alterations, it's a very good movie. Ms. Johansson, who's been spending a lot of time lately playing tough, confident women, does a very effective job playing the early-film Lucy as the clueless and terrified woman caught up in a horrific situation, which makes her transition into a near-emotionless thinking machine all the more effective. I do think the character reached that point a bit earlier than she needed to, but that is the fault of writer/director Mr. Besson, and not Ms. Johansson.
She was well supported by Freeman, Amr Waked as the French policeman Del Rio, and Min-sik Choi as the criminal Mr. Jang.
Mentioning Mr. Jang brings up the other really tired plot convention: the crooks who don't know when to cut their losses. Jang and his gang see their shipments of the new drugs confiscated by police due to Lucy's intervention, but, instead of going back to the lab and cooking up a new batch, decide to stage an all-out gun battle versus the French police, including a platoon-level assault on a university laboratory building. Frankly, this makes no sense; no matter how many hundreds of thousands the dope might have been worth on the street, the production cost must necessarily be much lower, and, to an ongoing criminal enterprise, nothing would be worth incurring that kind of governmental wrath. Oh, well-the bad guys exist to drive the plot.
That said, it was still an enjoyable film. The representations of Lucy's evolving powers and perceptions are neatly done and very cool. Her ultimate apotheosis shares elements with other similar sequences, but also builds in some homages, notably to 2001:A Space Odyssey, which we appreciated.

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