Luc Besson’s Lucy is a poorly-executed movie with an interesting premise that is mildly intriguing, but unravels under its own promise. This is both a surprise and disappointment, as I have been an admirer of some of Besson’s films, such as The Fifth Element. This film does what any good film should not – follow two very different sets of logic that converge into a gigantic mess by the final act. What would happen if humans could use 100% of their brain? Apparently, anything and everything. But maybe not? I don’t know. I’m confused! I need a nap.
Lucy did have its good points. The action is very slick and clean, which is what I would expect from Besson. Scarlett Johannson and company do well with what they have, but it’s not much. None of this can cover up the sloppiness of the editing and overall storytelling.
Despite it’s incoherent style, tone and story, Lucy has a lot to say thematically. This film is very humanistic in tone, which opens up an interesting spiritual conversation. Since man’s beginning, he has always been tempted to believe that he can know as much as God, or transcend his own finite existence under his own power. It seems that Besson believes that there is a way to achieve this – through science and knowledge. However, this belief negates the inherent existence of sin in every person’s heart, and it is sin that blinds us to the actual truth of life and the knowledge of God.
Going into 100% of the movie… SPOILERS AHEAD
Luc Besson has always been a great action director, and Lucy is no exception. There is a car chase in the middle of the film that is expertly directed. The action is fast-paced and exciting with multiple angles and POVs, but still edited coherently enough to follow. I only wish it lasted longer. The visual effects, for what they were, were quite seamless.
Scarlett Johansson was surprisingly good. As much as I liked her in the Marvel films like The Avengers, I always thought she had a great deal of difficulty truly emoting. She always seemed to be putting her “Scarlett Johansson” persona into every character she played, a la Will Smith. Ironically, her performance is one of the highlights of this movie. She really sells the terror and emotion during the initial kidnapping sequence, which is contrasted by the almost robotic performance when her mind is turned up to eleven.
Lucy reminded me of a poorly-constructed train on a long stretch of track. It started out sleek and nice, even entertaining and intriguing. But as the journey went on, the loose bolts started loosening faster, causing the vehicle to slowly fall apart. Eventually, the entire thing disintegrated into a heap of incomprehensible mish-mash.
The film really started to unravel as Lucy’s powers became more outlandish. I thought that the initial set of abilities was somewhat plausible – things like being able to really control how one’s body functions and processes like one’s metabolism (I’ve always said that, in my case, my stomach does what it wants). But it got almost laughable by the end. We started getting into implausible things like controlling other people with the mind, seeing cellular signals, and it just lost me. It really took me out of the movie that there seemed to be absolutely no limitation to the extent of her abilities.
One of the signs of poor filmmaking is a lack of subtlety, and this film, like the protagonist’s mind, kicks that into overdrive. Besson intersperses nature footage into the narrative, visually explaining, for example, what Morgan Freeman was talking about in his lecture about the human mind, as if the average person could not understand the really basic concepts he explained. The nature footage also made its way into Lucy’s initial kidnapping scene, likening her to a gazelle being devoured by a cheetah. The footage splicing was awkward and unintentionally funny (at least I don’t think it was intentional).
Morgan Freeman was completely wasted in this movie. He was only there to rattle off exposition in his professional narrator voice and explain to the audience what was going on. Seriously. That’s all he did. At the end of the film, he literally stood in the room with the rest of the doctors/scientists and explained what was going on, and did nothing else. I’m not kidding.
Speaking of the end, what was that? This is where the train really crashed and burned. The ending made no sense whatsoever. So she can travel through time? Back to the beginning of the universe? What? How could that kind of knowledge be locked in her brain somewhere? That’s not scientific at all. I looked at my wife after it was over and we both had the same confounded look on our faces.
Themes and Thoughts
Thematically, Lucy is a humanist’s dream come true – transcending and evolving beyond the limits of the flesh into something more, with no spiritual component – because of science. And like the humanist’s dream, it is based on a false hope. Reliance on our own comprehension and knowledge will not lead to a higher truth or state of being, for we as human beings are handicapped by sin, and blinded to real Truth.
The use of the name “Lucy” was not arbitrary. Besson made it very clear in the film that he was comparing his heroine to “Lucy,” the incomplete hominid skeleton found in Ethiopia in 1974. “Lucy” even makes an appearance in the film through computer-generated imagery. Besson’s Lucy was an example of the next stage of human evolution, just as the fossilized “Lucy” was a purported “missing link” in human evolutionary theory. In fact, there is a rather audacious shot in the third act where Johansson’s Lucy and the primate attempt to touch fingers, evoking the image of God and Adam from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco.
What Besson was trying to do was not-so-subtly tell the audience that human beings are simply animals – that there is nothing really special about us as a species. Modern evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson summed up this viewpoint in his 1967 book, titled (rather ironically) The Meaning of Evolution: “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material.”
Evolutionists like Simpson believe that, while man is an animal and life itself is arbitrary, he does possess enough intelligence and reason to evolve himself to a state of non-savagery. It is almost as if humanists believe that science and human knowledge will save humanity from its injustices and depravity. This is the greatest irony of humanism and evolutionary theory: we are no different than other animals, and yet, they consistently imagine that human beings are so advanced that we can evolve to a state of almost godlike knowledge, peace and fulfillment, if given enough time. What an utterly sad and hopeless existence.
Faith in the self-evolution of human beings is a fool’s errand. In all of the thousands of years of human history, there have been advancements and progress in civilization to be sure. We have learned much and developed many things that take some of the toil out of life. However, human history is continuously fraught with brutality, pride, and other forms of depravity. No matter how “advanced” society becomes, there will always be man’s sinful nature to contend with – and no drug, technology, knowledge, law or other man-made construct will completely eradicate it. The “humans only use ten percent of their brain” trope is an urban myth, propped up with a false hope that man can somehow tap into that vast storeroom of knowledge and achieve a higher state of being. A heaven of our own making on earth is not possible, no matter how much we want to make it so.
Like all sinful thoughts and feelings, ideas of artificially transcending human existence go back to the beginning of creation. In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil to eat of the tree, though God forbade them to do so. Satan made this disobedience enticing to them by telling them, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God…” (Genesis 3:4-5)
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
It is not a lack of knowledge or reason that keeps us from knowing and understanding truth. It is the sin in our lives that blinds us to who God is, His Truth, and living a better life. We have chosen to go our own way, attempting to gain a higher form of life on our own, stumbling in the dark.
Therefore, in order to relieve our blindness, we must turn from our sinful ways and follow God. Through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, we can be made righteous in the eyes of God, be filled with the Spirit, and begin to live life the way it should be lived. It will be difficult, and we will still stumble, but if our focus is on pleasing God and maintaining a personal relationship with Him, we can begin to understand our true purpose and open ourselves to true peace.
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
Lucy tried to tell an interesting story, but failed. It started out entertaining enough, but became sloppy and incomprehensible toward the end. Everything was so over-the-top and confusing that the smaller story fleshed out at the beginning was not worth the ride. Even Morgan Freeman could not save this movie; he simply stood on the sidelines and watched it collapse.
True human advancement and fulfillment will not come from any synthetic drug, scientific discovery, or vast storeroom of knowledge. We, as humans, can only comprehend so much because of our sinful nature. There is nothing on this earth that will relieve us of the burden of our own depravity. The darkness and utter hopelessness of humanism is countered by the light and hope in Jesus Christ. We are meant for more than a meager, finite existence in this world. Our ability to begin to comprehend certain ideas indicates our destiny is for something more, and we must look to God for help – to save us from ourselves.
“Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day. No, man was made for immortality.” Abraham Lincoln
Universal Pictures / EuropaCorp
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked and Choi Min-sik
Written and directed by Luc Besson