Lucy (2014) is a French science fiction action film directed and written by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. After instantly dismissing the film upon its release due to the absurd scientific synopsis that humans only use 10% of their brains, I was drawn back by the superb acting to re-examine the film. The film embraced us with a gripping storyline which I am truly sorry I dismissed at first.
The film narrates the story of Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), a carefree student living in China, who is tricked by a boyfriend into delivering a briefcase to an unknown business contact. The story progresses to Lucy being abducted. She wakes up after being surgically implanted with a package containing a powerful chemical, the intent of her captives being to turn her into a drug mule. However, after being physically assaulted by one of her captives, the package breaks and releases the drug into her blood system. This drug gives her super human abilities as she has “access to the rest of her brain.” With her new powers of telekinesis and telepathy, Lucy seeks out academic Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) to help put her new found powers to good, all the while being pursued by her former captors.
Despite scientific inaccuracies, the film holds some important messages.
By choosing to pass knowledge on, we are immortal because our ideas never die.
Time is the only true unit of measure. It gives proof to the existence of matter. Without time, we don’t exist.
Likewise, we learn the importance of abstract concepts rather than our immediate conscious desires:
I wanna thank you for the thousand kisses that I can still feel on my face.
The film is original in the fact that the protagonist becomes less compassionate as the film advances. She becomes less human, and more cruel and unfeeling. However, she does not become immoral. She acts on logic alone. She needs a doctor’s attention, so she shoots a patient he is performing surgery on. She knew the patient was dying anyway. And her cause was going to do more to advance the human race.
Unfortunately, many feel that more research on China would have been pertinent. I’m not qualified to speak on the matter, but there were rudimentary mistakes that hold an undertone of racism that were plain even for me to see. Despite the film being set in China, the viewer observes a white female protagonist defeating exclusively Asian villains. Any Chinese person not part of the gang kept their head down and ignored the injustices committed towards Lucy. I found myself sinking low in my seat in embarrassment as Lucy manages to trick the only captor who showed some compassion towards her by opening her legs. Instantly he is seduced and wants assumes she wants sex. It holds a stereotype that Asian men idealise a Western look.
Likewise, a blog on tumblr called “Reverse Racism” has claimed that the Chinese logographs behind Lucy in this scene translate to: “Keep clean. Apple, scallop & ginger, orange, tomato, grape.” Given the budget of the film, I am certain they could have afforded a real translation. Such acts are very dismissive of Chinese culture.
Overall this is a very enjoyable film, but I would advise you take it with a pinch of salt. Remember, it is a myth that humans only use 10% of their brains, one that the scientific community has been trying to dispel for many years. Likewise, it’s important to understand the film is dismissive of Chinese culture.
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