Luc Besson has made a lot of films as a writer and/or director, but apart from the great Léon and the enjoyable The Fifth Element nothing really stands out. The drive in Taxi, Transporter and Taken was nice, but they’re just action flicks without a deeper narrative. Besson’s last directed movie – The Family – was horrible, full attempts at being funny and engaging but nowhere even getting close.
With Lucy we again get a movie full of attempts but all in all being a big failure; with a faulty storyline that is stuck in modernistic thinking without even considering a post-modern critique. Let me unravel that a bit more after giving a short overview of the plot.
Lucy’s boyfriend asks her to deliver a briefcase to a drug lord. She soon finds herself in the midst of people dying and after a period of unconsciousness the cartel has planted a new synthetic drug in her body which she is expected to traffic to Europe. Through a strange plot twist she is then in a cell (no idea why) and one of the wardens kicks her in the stomach, tearing the bag and releasing the drugs in her system.
The result: Lucy starts to use her brain to the fullest instead of the only 10% that humans use (Mythbusters already busted this myth). This results in her having special abilities and the drugs are at the same time shortening her life because she has come dependent on the drugs. Will she be able to take the world to the next step while the drug lord is chasing her?
Modernistic Tower of Babel
In the end Lucy has godlike characteristics (to even being omnipresent) and this is entirely in line with the Enlightenment idea that if human beings use their brains they will become superior and thus also exclude the necessity of a god. In that sense Lucy tells the story of the Tower of Babel: humanity’s hope to reach a divine status through their own abilities. However, if post-modernism has done anything, it is exactly showing the limitations of this progress idea. Man may have gotten smarter on average but that has not resulted in better social equality and the decrease of war. On the contrary, never have so many people died because of what other people have done. Lucy however stands in the tradition of praising the Enlightenment without even considering this post-modern, critical reflection.
Closely related to that is Lucy’s loss of emotions. As Lucy become more powerful, her emotions vanish; she does not care any more. Most of the movie shows an emotionless Scarlett Johansson. Again this is close to the Enlightenment ideal wherein brains conquer over emotions; an idea that unfortunately has pervaded many churches. Cognitive knowledge and skills are the purpose, not emotional intelligence, care and love.
The result is a movie that wants to be philosophical but has loose ends everywhere, misses good critical analysis and does not know whether to choose being an action movie or something else. Add to that there are no interesting plot twists whatsoever: Lucy becomes more and more powerful but at no stage is she really in danger. The drug cartel never really poses a threat.
You might enjoy this movie if you switch of your brain and use a whole lot less than 10% of it. Otherwise you will get irritated with the plot flaws, the bad popular philosophical ideas, the just as bad pseudo-science and the indecisiveness of the movie.
Lucy – Luc Besson (Canal+, 2014)