Lucy (2014)

*. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
*. By “”em” I mean Marvel Studios, and the massive success of their superhero franchises. Now to be sure, Lucy isn’t so far removed from the rest of Luc Besson’s oeuvre as for it to be considered a case of pure coattailing, but once Lucy starts sending bad guys flying around with a flip of her hand then we know we’re really in the Marvel Universe.
*. Stupid? Oh, hell yeah. But stupid only in a fun, comic book sort of way, or more profoundly stupid, in a way that should perhaps concern us? I think a bit of both.
*. For stupid in the first sense (the fun, comic book stupid) we need look no further than the pseudoscientific explanation for what’s going on. Of course this is a fantasy (the “ten percent of brain” idea, which also served as the inspiration for Limitless, has been widely debunked), but even so my suspension of disbelief snapped in the very early going. I mean, I could buy Lucy getting a big boost to her IQ, transcending pain, and gaining extra-sensory powers. But when she starts flying, or changing her molecular structure, or accessing other people’s memory, or suspending the laws of physics, or any of her various exercises of spooky action at a distance, I just turned off. Lucy may be a superhero with super powers, or may have achieved a “transhuman” condition, but she’s still a biological, or at least physical entity.
*. Or is she? What happens when we evolve, or reach, 100 percent of cerebral capacity? Why, we become God. Not the ultimate alpha predator. Not a superhero. Not one of the X-Men’s mutant homo superiors or Neo from The Matrix. No, I said God.

*. By God I mean a force that is omnipresent (“I’m everywhere”), omniscient, and omnipotent, unconstrained by the categories of time and space (though for some reason Lucy’s ability to inhabit eternity only allows her to go sightseeing into the past, not the future, which I don’t think makes much sense if time has been erased).
*. But by “God” I also mean something more familiar to us. I mean the Internet. What Lucy has become is pure information. She has experienced a personal Singularity or rapture. She hasn’t built a next generation of computer, she has become a computer. Our species’ apotheosis is just an uploading to the cloud. Transcendence, or Transcendence, is on its way.
*. Well, there are a lot of people who believe that. I sure don’t, but this movie makes a hard sell of it. Computing will be our salvation. Lucy is Google and Facebook and the NSA and every other aspect of the intelligence community and security state rolled into one, and that’s a good thing! Technology is a blessing, a benevolent God. It helps us fight the bad guys.
*. “So what?” you say. We’re not meant to take any of this seriously. None of it? So this next step in our evolution isn’t a good thing? That seems hard to square with the rest of the movie. And it makes a nonsense of whatever message Besson might be trying to make. Not that this is too clear anyway, but it seems to be positive. “Life was given to us a billion years ago. Now we know what to do with it.” Really? Now? What? What? Could you explain a little more, Lucy?
*. Why does Lucy need to track down the other packages of blue meth? Since she can manipulate the molecular structure of reality any way she wants, why can’t she just build her own supply out of a candy bar?
*. I suppose all of this bright shiny nonsense would be well enough if it were still a decently made comic-book movie, but I don’t think it is. The script is clumsy as hell, with the secondary characters having no depth or real purpose. As Del Rio plaintively puts it, why does Lucy even need him at all? She doesn’t. She doesn’t need Professor Norman either. They’re just there for us.
*. The other problem with the script is that there is no conflict. Since Lucy can do anything to anyone, anywhere, anytime, she doesn’t have any real obstacles to overcome. We’re just watching an egg hatch.
*. By the way, I’ve read that the script took nine years to write. How is that possible?
*. Aside from the weakness of the script, there’s nothing interesting to look at. That dramatic slow walk of the hero toward another massive round of ass-kicking is repeated three or four times. There is a de rigueur car chase, at high speed against traffic. The effects look good, but they aren’t a step beyond The Matrix or the usual Marvel fare. I can’t think of a single shot or sequence in the entire movie that’s memorable or that struck me as novel or particularly well done.
*. In sum, it’s a very generic comic-book movie, with an inert script and a premise that I find dangerous, depressing, and disturbing to entertain even as fantasy or allegory. It’s often said of such films that the only way to enjoy them is to just sit back and turn your brain off. I wish I had.

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