Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Lucy: A Series of Pastiche Pieces and More

Film Review: Lucy (science fiction, 2014)

I'm in between reading two books so I thought that today I would review a film: Lucy, described in Wikipedia as an "English-language French science fiction film." My wife loved it and insisted that I watch it, because I love a good science fiction film. While there were parts that were interesting, in whole I would say - meh!

Also according to the Wikipedia article, writer and director Luc Besson "stated that he intended for the first part of Lucy to be like Léon: The Professional (which he also wrote and directed), the second part to be like Inception and the third part to be like 2001: A Space Odyssey." Therein lies part of the problem.

A film needs to be presented as a whole, not a series of pastiche pieces. And it needs to be its own whole, not an apparent homage to another - or a series of other - films.

Furthermore, the film was shot in Taipei, Paris, and New York City, but often it was hard to tell where you were. And the breadth of locations were important to the story line.

What the film did well was set you up for the supposed science behind the plot.

Morgan Freedman plays the world's foremost expert on the human mind who explains the capacity of the brain and how little of most humans use. That sets the audience up for the experiences the protagonist Lucy, played by Scarlett Johansson, is about to go through when, as an innocent forced to act as a drug mule, she is accidentally exposed to an overdose of an experimental mind altering drug.

Parts of the film are cinematically stunning. Some of the imaging is imaginative. Some of the plot is interesting. But the farther you go into to film, the less science-based the conjecture becomes and the more far-fetched and plodding the plot becomes.

The "science" suggested is that the average human uses only 10 percent of his or her brain. The idea pursued is that Lucy's brain is building on itself and as it does so, she is able to use a larger and larger percentage of itself. But as the process goes on she needs more and more of the drug to keep the process going. As she uses more of her brain, her powers become greater so that she can manipulate her environment. For example, the drug lords who forced her into becoming a mule are after her to get the extra supplies of the drug, and she uses her mind to physically restrain them. She moves traffic, shifts through locations around the world, even time travels backward to meet the original primate Lucy. And all of that I had a hard time believing.
By the way, the idea that humans use only 10 percent of their brains is a myth. Here's a good article on the science behind Lucy.
In addition, in a couple of places the film showed Lucy zipping through computer screens. It doesn't matter how fast your mind works, computers and the Internet with today's connections only work so fast. That was totally unbelievable.

The other hard part for me is the selection of Amr Waked as Pierre Del Rio, the Parisian police officer who she commandeers to help her but whose help she ultimately doesn't need. He also becomes a love interest for her, although through her drug-altered experiences she first seems to have heightened emotions and then seems to lose all emotional connection. Not only does his character seem unnecessary to the plot, but as an actor his physical appearance is more like a gangster than a hero. That's more a casting call I suppose.

I don't like to write a review that is entirely negative, and there were things that I liked about the film.

For instance, Scarlett Johansson was exceptional as Lucy and Morgan Freeman was brilliant as Professor Samuel Norman. The exposition on brain science and brain capacity were well handled. And the scene where Lucy was about to be captured by the Taiwanese mobsters interspersed with scenes of African lions converging on an antelope for the kill were interesting (although not a convention carried out through the film, so they stood out as odd in the character of the film).

Besson does carry out the imagination of Inception and the broad speculation of 2001: A Space Odyssey as he supposes how the mind can force its will on world and how the advancement in human ability can achieve greater aims. He also twists the world visually and even manages to invert 2001's visual primate interplay by having the modern-day Lucy physically meet and touch fingertips with humanity's mother Lucy. Those were both interesting and appealing.

However, I can't say that they overcome the other shortfalls of the film for me.

We caught the film on one of the cable on-demand channels. So we didn't waste a lot of money at the theater or on a night out. But still, it was an evening of television wasted for me.

My wife liked it. Perhaps you will like, too.

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