Friday, July 25, 2014


The concept of "Lucy", the new Luc Besson film starring Scarlett Johansson, is absolute nonsense.  It bases itself upon the myth that human beings only use 10% of their brains, leading people to imagine what incredible potential we might have if we were able to use the full hundred.  Unfortunately no, you did not fail your sixth grade math test just because of some cruel twist of evolution forcing you to use only a fraction of your potential, you just did not work hard enough.  Your brain currently is eating up 20% of the energy in your body, a massively disproportionate amount consider its size.  Within that organ, you are unconsciously commanding yourself to breath, determining body temperature, directing heartbeat, remembering your identity and opinions of this blog, imagining Scarlett Johansson naked and moaning, decoding the words of this sentence, and ignoring half of those because your brain is lazy and wants to skip forward down the paragraph.  All that takes 100% of your mass, which is all doing something right now, keeping you alive and making you you.

So therefore, one's brain would imagine, since its files on identity have given you the belief that movies that are based on bullshit pseudoscience are bad, that "Lucy" is a stupid movie that should be avoided.  However, your brain is wrong.  Pulp SciFi for decades has been dissatisfied with the incredible cognitive abilities of the mind and used the 10% myth to imagine all sorts of fantastic magic you could summon with a better brain.  Besson has trumped them all, saying, "no, just being really smart and motivated like that Bradley Cooper movie, 'Limitless' is not enough, I'm going to go seven billion light years further with it".  "Lucy" passes beyond the point of stupid absurdity to reach over-the-top parody, then keeps going to the point that it becomes absolutely brilliant, a wonderfully weird work of true 100% genius.

I fear that a lot of audiences are actually going to be disappointed by "Lucy", since the trailers have been proudly wearing its stupid premise on its sleeve.  They wanted a dumb superhero movie where Scarlett Johansson beats up Taiwanese gangsters with telekinesis but will instead get what is basically a big budget Phillip K. Dick novel.  We a movie that is part French punk action movie, part navel gazing philosophy on the nature of life and discovery, and part "Akira".  This movie is completely insane and in the very best ways.  It is the kind of movie that will instantly weird out audiences who were very comfortable using as little of their cranial potential as possible, and most terrifyingly, might even give the most dangerous thing of all:  new ideas.

The plot of "Lucy" involves Scarlet Johansson's character, also known as Lucy, a young party-happy woman living in Taiwan.  Her awful boyfriend manipulates her into a delivering a mysterious package for the local crime syndicate.  This ends up getting him killed and Lucy kidnapped by the drug lord, played by Korean actor Choi Min-sik*.  The Taiwanese decide to use their new cute American captive as a drug lord for a brand new drug, CPH4**.  During a rape attempt, the bag is ripped open, spilling mountains of the blue magic into Lucy's body.  Within hours she transforms first into a ninja superhero brainiac, then into a telepathy wizard, and as she gains more and more preposterous powers, perhaps into God itself.  Meanwhile all of these events are watched over by Morgan Freeman's character, who seems to exist in this story mostly to give a trustworthy elderly face to Luc Besson's trademark manic lunacy.

It was especially hard to fine screenshots for this review since simply searching "Lucy" into Google Images turned up a truckload of porn, the vast majority of which was unusable on this blog.
Luc Besson has rarely been a director of restraint.  He made a name for himself in the 90s as an action director, creating wild movies such as "Nikita" and "Leon: The Professional".  But then came his passion project, "The Fifth Element", a future SciFi movie involving a mostly naked Milla Jovovich, a blue alien opera star, Gary Oldman with half a head of hair, and the most annoying character in the history of motion pictures.  (Chris Tucker still haunts my nightmares.)  Besson immediately throws out his oddness credentials by peppering the beginning of "Lucy" with metaphorical cutaways so on the nose and obvious they must be film school parody gags.  While Lucy is manipulated by her boyfriend, a mousetrap appears for a second in a most Nineties of quirky Indie tricks.  Another stylish gag comes well into the movie once Lucy has hit about 40% of her brain, allowing her to control matter.  It appears that we are going to have a hallway kung fu fight, and the gangsters definitely try their best with some chop socky movies.  However instead of fighting back, Lucy just walks straight, and before their attacks can connect she throws them into the ceiling, smashing their skulls just as she smashes audience expectations.

Besson dances very closely to pretentious with this film.  Imagine a more fun, more punk "Tree of Life" built around a superhero origin story and you will have "Lucy".  It is very rare to see a movie that should be a simple action popcorn flick find itself mired in sweeping grandeur and huge philosophical ideas.  The director fills his movie with huge sweeping montages as Lucy jumps from time travel encounters with Native Americans, there's a moment where Lucy meets the Lucy Australopithecus and touches fingers a la "Creation of Man", all this while in the real world, melting on the floor like Tetsuo at the end of "Akira".  "Lucy" is the kind of movie where half the fun of seeing it is just recounting the simply unbelievable insane shit that went on during the movie, and how fascinatingly weird the entire experience is.  "Remember the part where Scarlette Johansson melted into dust like she was in the opening FMV of 'Kingdom Hearts II'?"  Nothing like "Lucy" has ever been done before, and definitely not as a wide release.

Lucy's powers are so great she can even make Microsoft Kinect function properly.
One potential negative to "Lucy" is that between the hyper powered telepathy and existential time wandering, the main character is mostly devoid of emotion.  Scarlette Johansson post transformation keeps her tone level and calm, giving herself an unearthly vibe***.  She has become so advanced that even that the concepts of self and personality are merely biological constructs, which she has already evolved beyond.  Still there is are moments where the actress and the character have emotional scenes.  One I found to be especially brilliant was when Lucy, having just become the Kwisatch Haderach, calls her mother, and is able to remember accurately all of the love this woman gave her during her life, to the point Lucy can even recall the taste of her mother's milk in her mouth.  Lucy tearfully has to say goodbye for the final time, having already realized that her time in this mortal dimension has already passed.

Again weirdly for a summer blockbuster, "Lucy" actually is interested in answering the "big questions" such as the meaning of life itself.  Morgan Freeman's stargazing scientist states in a lecture that the ultimate purpose of life is to transmit information.  All beings, no matter how primitive, strive to exist, if only to replicate their matter and pass on their knowledge to future generations.  Lucy, having only a short amount of time before evolving so quickly as to blast completely out of existence entirely, is told that her one purpose in the remaining day should be to teach mankind what she has learned.  A brief moment of Morgan Freeman asking "maybe this is knowledge man was not supposed to learn" is laughed off as primitive madness.  Meanwhile on the other end of the intellectual spectum, there is "Transcendence", an idiotic head-in-the-sand SciFi film from a few months ago, which came up with the opposite conclusion.  "Transcendence" is the kind of movie that makes me wonder if the 10% myth might actually be true for some Hollywood screenwriters.

So what part of the brain exactly controls the duplicating hand muscle?
"Lucy" is a movie that really defies all kinds of easy categorization or easy judgments.  Yes, it is taking an abominably stupid premise, one so false it should make all 100% working parts of your brain ache in annoyance.  But then that premise is supercharged to an elevation of madness that the film goes from moronic to awesome to perhaps even slightly profound.  Maybe "Lucy" is just a movie with its head up its own ass, with stoned rambling ideas that make no sense at all.  But nobody else is going to try to answer the Meaning of Life with a SciFi film this summer, and far fewer people are going to do it with as much fun and abandon as Luc Besson.  Yeah, the concept of "Lucy" is pure science crap, but its ambitions are absolutely the purest element of classic literary science fiction.

Hey, I want more Phillip K. Dick stories in stupid action movies.  Just imagine what would happen if they sneak something like "VALIS" into the next "Transformers" movie.  You might see the full 100% of people's brains explode.

* Who I am insanely pleased to see finally appearing in a major Western film after his incredible career in his native country, most notably as the star of "Oldboy".  Sadly he is still mostly underused in this film, playing nothing more than a crazy bad guy.  You cannot win them all.

** CPH4 is claimed in this movie to be a chemical secreted in small amounts by the mother during fetal development that leads the fetus to rapidly grow bones.  This turned out to be extremely annoying for me, because unfortunately, being curious, I had to look up what this molecule was and what it really did.  Those are all common atoms in the human body, if curiously simplistic for a supposedly rare super molecule.   Unfortunately there does not appear to be any sort of molecule of carbon, phosphorus, and Hydrogen with that small a number of atoms, and my poorly-remembered memories of a semester of college chemistry could not even devise a model for what that molecule would look like.  I eventually had to ask a friend and it seems that this molecule itself is completely nonsensical, carbon and phosphorus simply cannot bond this way.  So it appears Luc Besson just threw together some atoms with a convincing name.

This doesn't really say much for this movie's scientific credentials, which as we know, are crap.

*** Comparisons to that other Scarlett Johansson movie, "Under the Skin" are inevitable.  This is the better Johansson SciFi film of 2014.  "Lucy" has one tenth the drear and one hundred times the personality, but sadly, less nudity.


  1. I knew I was right to want to see this movie!

    Also, I've noticed you haven't been tweeting as much. Something wrong?

  2. This is actually a good film?
    Hmmm, I thought this movie would be complete trash, but now im curious now. Not enough to pay full price, but maybe matinee or DVD.
    When you said Akira I thought Scarlett Johansen would mutate into a unholy eldritch abomination at the end. :)
    Silly question , but have you seen Akira Blue or just know it by reputation.

    Sword Of Primus

    P.S I have been waiting for then a week to type this.
    I finally was able to watch the anime Kino's Journey, after waiting 5+ years to watch it after reading your review of it, I finished the anime that has been on my list to watch for a eternity.
    And I got to say after the waiting it was......pretty good, is it perfect ? No, but for what it had with its themes and how it presented them they were done well.
    Thank you Bluehighwind for introducing me to this anime , sorry it took a eternity to find a copy to watch.
    Additional P.S I think some of your tales of the Q on FF wiki are missing, the 2nd half of the 10 ten anime list are missing and so is the kino's Journey review, along with possibly more. Was not sure if you knew.
    Sword Of Primus

  3. I couldn't really feel this movie. I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't too fond of Johansson's character's nearly-immediate abandonment of human and character traits. Also I just found it hard to feel any tension out of her omnipotence, but maybe that's the point. Funny enough of all the "bullshit premise" sci-fi movies I tend to avoid, this was the first in the longest time I've actually went to see.