When a young girl, living in Taiwan gets dragged into a drama with Taiwanese drug lords what happens? This is the premise of “Lucy” however instead of just laying out the story simply, it is interwoven with two different metaphors. The first shows a Scientist discussing how the brain works, and the other which seem to be clips from animal planet, interspersed with the first human, ‘Lucy’ and later dinosaurs. The themes (one which is a metaphor, and the other scientific) are placed before the viewer, in a clumsy attempt to add texture and time to the film.
In “Lucy” though, we find that the first two notions (that of the scientist, Morgan Freeman, Professor Norman) and the evolution of the animal kingdom are used as constructs to narrate the film. Scarlett Johansson is Lucy, living her life in Taiwan. Why she is there exactly we are not told. Her boyfriend, Richard, Pilou Asbæk, after failing to con her into dropping off a briefcase for him, handcuffs her to it. She takes it into the building, where she finds out that what is inside are drugs and lots of men with guns.
Throughout the film there are montages of a cheetah hunting a gazelle, which are obviously supposed to symbolize her predicament; can she outwit the drug lords and escape, or will she be hunted and killed like an animal? This is not a simple drug movie though, because no sooner is she caught than they implant the drugs in her stomach so that she can carry them through customs and outside of Taiwan. What they don’t bank on, is the bag of drugs rupturing and infecting the host who is carrying them.
What would the repercussions be? While Lucy is in a holding cell, her bag does break and the drug then starts coursing through her body. How this affects her, is akin to when Peter Parker was bitten by the spider in Spiderman. Yet these moments do not last long, as many of them are inter-cut with Professor Norman lecturing on the brain, and then back to the animals again and again. The threading of these three disparate stories does not work as it becomes tedious and tiresome.
We know from the outset is that the two elements, that of the Scientist and the nature clips, will converge, we just don’t know where, and that is not the point. That they are used as filler for a film which comes in at just ninety minutes is clear. However, both schemas are trite, that man is akin to an animal learning through trial and error, and that only the primal forces allow us to survive.
Here we come to several basic fallacies in the movie. After she attacks the drug lords she goes to a hospital to have the drug pack removed from her stomach. When she walks into the hospital she has a gun in each hand, with silencers on each one and blood on her face, hair and clothes. Yet, no one stops her, is suspicious or says anything. It is hard to believe that someone, especially a white blond woman could walk into a Taiwanese hospital packing heat covered in blood, and not arouse attention.
After this she goes back to the drug lords and takes them out. However, when she seeks out the Kingpin, instead of just shooting him, which any sane person would have done, she stabs him through the back of his hands. This frees him to later seek her out and kill her for vengeance sake alone.
Lucy though goes through much of the story with blood on her cheeks, hair and clothes and yet no one says anything. However, if we are talking about absurdity, it is also difficult to fathom how later when they are in Paris, and the drug lord’s group is chasing her, an entire group of Taiwanese thugs pulls their vehicles up right beside the French police cars, take out bags and bags of machine guns and other artillery. Their actions and the sheer hubris of them, says that their conduct is not only admissible but sanctioned.
These are the superficial elements of the film which are ridiculous. If we put those aside and then look at the devices used within the plot, such as the fact that she must take more and more of the drug in order not to disintegrate, then one has to wonder, how can this be? Is it that her consciousness has expanded so greatly her body cannot contain it? Or that the drug has so altered the composition of her body that in order for her to maintain its structure, she must take more and more?
These questions are never answered however they are no less bizarre than the notion which Lucy poses that without time humans would cease to exist. Animals have no concept of time, yet they still exist. Time, in actuality is a man-made theorem and in truth the very notion of time is in fact subjective. If we did not know that time existed, would it still be a part of life? Or did we create time, so that we could have a paradigm upon which to structure our lives?
This film though pretends to ask deeper questions, such as why people only uses ten percent of their brain, which is in fact a fallacy, and then through Lucy, posits that humans would in effect gain super human abilities, if they could gain full access, thus using 100%. Their answer at the end is that man would become a god. The filmmakers though halt the film periodically to tell us what percent of the brain she is at. This interrupts the flow of the story entirely and pulls you out of the narrative.
The concept behind “Lucy” is one which seems simple, yet in which the writers may have felt that in order to have a full length feature film, they needed to pad it, with the two other story lines, which in fact are not stories in and of themselves, but are added in to fill time. Some of this becomes so extraneous that instead of enhancing the story, it instead slows it down to a crawl. This is especially true in the film’s finale when much of it feels like a sixties acid trip, than part of the plot.
This brings us to Scarlett Johansson as Lucy. Her portrayal of a young American in a foreign country, as well her shock and horror at the violence in the beginning of the film adds a great deal of nuance to the character. Yet, the more and more she is affected by the drugs, and becomes less and less human, the more her character fades into a flat tuneless drone. Her actions are now without humanity, which means that the more she is able to access her brains’ full functionality, the less and less human she becomes.
This seems to be a paradox though in rational thinking, for if one did use all of their brain’s ability, instead of becoming super human; wouldn’t we become in fact more caring, compassionate and in deed more aware of our humanity and those around us? “Lucy” would lead us to believe that at the core of our humanity we are anything but these qualities. In her we find a strange comic book world where becoming more, is a trade-off in which we are in fact less than who we really are.