Did you know that we only use, on average, ten percent of our brain’s full capacity? Your first reaction is likely to be something along the lines of ‘Of course, everyone knows that! We learned it under the cap of a fruit juice bottle.’ It’s a bit of a pity that there’s not a shred of truth to it. I mean, it could be true if all of the parts of your brain did exactly the same thing. Let’s call it ‘brain stuff’ for the sake of argument. Now, assume that 90% of your brain is lying dormant, waiting to be kicked into a higher gear of brain stuff. That would basically make you a giant bundle of untapped potential, if only it could be unlocked and harnessed.
Luc Besson admits to knowing this prior to writing the film, but chose to press forward with the project because, apparently, it sounded like a fun idea. I suppose it is a fun idea, if not a very scientifically accurate one. It also provides a good backdrop for the creation of a compelling female action hero. This, if nothing else, makes a nice change of pace. Lucy (Scarlet Johansson) is a flawed character who gets mixed up in a situation that is far above her pay-grade. She falls victim to something that she later uses in her quest to gain redress of her grievances. She is in charge, in every sense of the word.
Our titular hero, under protest, agrees to transport some very shady-looking drugs for some even shadier-looking Chinese gangsters. Now, in order for us to have a story, we’re going to need a complication. Long story short, the bag splits and Lucy ends up getting a heroic dose of wicked-smart drugs. Now, these aren’t your run of the mill “smart drugs”. This isn’t like popping a Provigil or handful of Alphabrain before an exam. (Note: I’m not sure how this would go over with the University administration; so don’t take it as a recommendation) Pretty much immediately, Lucy begins to exhibit some startling leaps in her mental capacity. Sadly, this is where the film’s attempt to make some sort of sense takes a sharp left turn to the outskirts of crazy town.
All of a sudden, Lucy begins to know stuff. She starts to know the kind of stuff that she wouldn’t possibly have been able to know without something in the way of instruction. However, her turbocharged brain now allows her to bypass the parts of life where we learn stuff by either practicing or studying them. She becomes an expert marksman in about ten seconds flat without ever having fired a round on-screen. She picks up objects and immediately deduces their function before putting them to deadly use. She gains an understanding of medical procedures that people who perform them get from, like, reading books and stuff. Things don’t slow down for our steroidal autodidact. In fact, they begin to speed up at a galloping pace; and this is where the movie really starts to go hell for leather towards the border of The People’s Republic of Lunatopia.
It would appear, in the mind of Luc Besson, that one good pseudoscientific turn deserves another. Things start to get seriously wacky at this point. Lucy starts to manifest telekinetic powers, matter manipulation abilities and eventually the ability to spontaneously time-travel. Now, this makes for some visually stunning action scenes, I can’t deny that one bit. What it does, however, serve to do in the mind of your humble reviewer is to expose one of the fatal flaws in the writing of a film such as this.
As a writer, you need to be able to inhabit the minds of your characters, so that you can convincingly communicate their actions and desires to your audience. What happens, then, when the central character in your story is vastly more intelligent than everyone else in the story? My guess is you’re going to end up with a character that is supposed to be really smart, but in reality is going to resemble the author’s projected vision of what a really smart person would be like. What I’m getting at is that Lucy’s character arc puts her on a path where she will eventually become too smart to be able to be written credibly. Sadly, for this solid attempt at a spin on this particular pocket of the action-science fiction genre, this is a flaw that only an infinite amount of smarts could fix. The only person smart enough to write Lucy is Lucy, and she’s imaginary.
Words by Shaun Hobby