Sunday, 24 August 2014

Movie Review: Lucy

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First and foremost, Lucy isn't exactly the typical sci-fi action film that you would expect. The film shares many similarities with Limitless (2011), Watchmen (2009), The Matrix (1999), The Tree of Life (2011, especially the abstract imagery of the Universe and our planet), Her (2013) and Transcendence (2014). The film has a slightly misleading neuroscience premise that's based on the age-old, silly '10% of brain' myth that most humans use only 10% (or less) of their brain capacity. In actual fact, humans use nearly 100% of their brains in various ways...with many parts of our brain are not accessed consciously but rather subconsciously most of the time. However, humans never actually use 100% of their cerebral capacity consciously at the same time (full control and pushes its limit).

The film is basically a fictional story about a woman who is being forced to work as a drug mule who manage to 'unlock' her entire brain capacity, consciously at the same time and gain exceedingly powerful physical and mental abilities after a packet of a newly-developed synthetic drug called "CPH4" breaks inside of her body. However, her body becomes highly unstable and starts to disintegrate due to the limitation of the human body and she needs more and more of the drug to sustain herself.

The film asks thought-provoking 'what ifs' questions that are meaningful, provocative and worthy of our attention:
  • What if the synaptic networks of our brain are so perfectly connected that we are capable of transmit more information at one time? 
  • What if we have access to all our motory functions, deepest memories and knowledge in fractions of a second? 
  • What if we are capable of using 100% of our cerebral capacity, consciously at the same time (all regions of the brain are pushed to the limits and we are able to control the subconscious regions of the brain)
  • Most importantly, what would happen if a person eventually gains complete control/mastery of elementary/subatomic particles that exist in the quantum realm?

The film gives some rather clear answers that may seem absurd, nonsensical or silly to many, but some of them actually makes perfect sense if you think about it carefully. However, it is true to say that the film borrowed a few scientific principles (the basics of quantum mechanics and brain functions) and embellished them a bit for entertainment purposes. At first, the person acquires various enhanced physical and mental capabilities: perfect marksmanship, extreme agility, instantaneous reflexes, fast absorption of knowledge, immunity to pain and fear...and subsequently, increasingly powerful abilities such as telepathy (through accessing the target's brain synaptic networks, either by touching or through various electromagnetic waves), telekinesis, the ability to interpret/decipher/control various electromagnetic waves (TVs, internet or cell phones) as particles have wave-like properties, atemporal (free from limitations of time) and able to perceive time in a non-linear perspective, clairvoyance (the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known senses), quantum teleportation across space-time continuum and matter or energy manipulation.

In short, the film is actually a mixture of facts and fiction. Some parts of the film do require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief from audiences as the writer/director has taken some creative liberties with its grand and rather ambitious sci-fi premise (Besson has admitted that this film is a lot more fiction than science). Although some of the main lead's abilities look downright silly and ludicrous, they're actually quite new and imaginative: The scenes where Lucy 'vomits' pure energy and light, deciphering phone signal waveforms, typing on two laptops while absorbing useful information at the same time or growing slithery black goo that attaches itself to surrounding matter in the room, converting energy from matter, to supply her with limitless power, etc.

While all facts are not necessarily 'true'; some fiction are not entirely lies either. Just that the 'world' around us behaves like so, we tend to perceive it like so. This doesn't mean that in other parts of the Universe, the same rules apply. While some people might find it hard to understand, all things, including living beings, consist of matter which has mass and each of them occupy a space-time dimension. We are bounded by the laws of motion and gravity. We are our own observer as time is relative while we're moving through space-time. For example, let's take the comparisons between Newton's law of motion and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In your opinion, which one is correct? Well, the answer is both are correct. But the difference between them is precision. The formulas and calculations proposed by Einstein is far accurate and precise compared to Newton's. Einstein manage to provide an explanation about what gravity is but Newton doesn't. However, it doesn't mean that Newton's law is wrong. Both mathematical calculations really just provide a close approximation to how matter behaves on a macroscopic level.

Although the film's premise is not horrible or completely illogical, the execution is rather sloppy at places. The film shows the evolution of living things on this planet and the Universe by cutting in various shots of nature, the birth of the galaxy, scenes of animal species engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of reproduction, footage of cheetahs hunting gazelles, glimpses of a cell undergoing mitosis and splitting in two, a scene of an early hominid, Australopithecus drinking water from a lake a few million years ago, etc. Unfortunately, all these pieces just don't fit together nicely and seems rather out of place. There are numerous plot contrivances to allow characters to perform a certain action just to move the plot forward. There's no character development and backstory. The characters in the film don't have any significant emotional attachment to any other person on the screen.

Despite its shortcomings in characterization and plot, Scarlett Johansson managed to pull out a great performance to carry the film. Her panic shaking as she cries and begs for her life when she meets Mr.Jang for the first time or even when she wakes up after heavy sedation feels real and truly gives the feeling that she's in peril. Later on, when she is able to access her deepest memories and cry profusely during the phone conversation with her mum, it clearly shows her character's vulnerability. But as Lucy rapidly evolves, her lack of expression shows that she is gradually losing her emotions and humanity. It shows that she has truly become transcendent and no longer has any petty human concerns. On the other hand, Choi Min-sik done a great job as the merciless, frightening Korean drug kingpin, Mr.Jang. His presence on screen shows that he's not the man you would want to mess with. Unfortunately, Morgan Freeman doesn't have much to do with his character other than delivering exposition for the audience to know more about the premise.

In my opinion, this is by no means a terrible film, it's rather fast-paced, thought-provoking and entertaining. The purpose of science fiction is to seek answers for big important questions, to pique your interest or curiosity to further question, to find the truth and making sense of the world around us. This film succeeds in this aspect, despite its flaws. I believe that you'll appreciate this film more if you're willing to make an effort to take a step further to ponder and think, seek answers to extract the facts included in the film.

Rating: 7/10

Note: Please don't be stupid enough to ever think that drugs can make you smart. C.P.H.4 is just a fictional synthesized chemical drug that's based on (as mentioned in the film) a natural molecule that pregnant women produce after six weeks of pregnancy in very, very tiny quantities and is intended to promote fast cellular growth for the fetus (brain cells, bones, etc...said to be 6-carboxytetrahydropterin synthase or thyroid hormones) No one actually knows what other chemicals is included during the production of the synthetic drug. Even if the synthetic drug does exist, it doesn't mean that any humans can survive after taking large doses from it, only (possibly, maybe) a few selective humans can do that.

For those who are interested to know more about Lucy abilities and other specific details, please visit this link:

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