So let’s start with the enticing premise of Luc Besson’s Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson: human beings only use 10 per cent of their brain capacity. Imagine what it would be like if we could access all of it?
Well, wow. It would be sort of like … nothing new. Because, it turns out, in real life humans pretty much do use their whole brains.
Now, we could choose to be annoyed that Besson starts with a total myth. Or we could give him a pass – because the movie is fiction after all.
The more relevant question, though, is how much of your own brain you should use when watching Lucy, a truly bizarre if often entertaining romp through neuroscience, biochemistry, anthropology and basically the entire human experience, in 90 minutes. Plus a really cool car chase.
Here’s another question: just how much of his brain did Besson access when writing the dialogue?
The director knows his way around a camera and you can argue about the merits of the storyline, but the dialogue often sounds like it was produced by a primitive computer. It’s hammy and clunky.
As for the name Lucy, it refers to the famous fossilised skeleton of a female estimated to have lived some three million years ago. Thank goodness that primitive woman has now evolved – into a bleached-blonde, airheaded student of some sort, living in Taiwan.
That’s where we meet Johansson’s Lucy, whose boyfriend forces her to deliver a mysterious briefcase to a shady gang boss. Turns out, it’s a drug delivery – a shiny blue crystal called cph4. Lucy and a few other unfortunates are the chosen mules, doomed to fly to Europe with packages implanted in their stomachs. But there’s a hitch. Roughed up by thugs, Lucy takes a few punches to the stomach and the drug starts leaking into her system.
Suddenly, she’s writhing uncontrollably – on the ceiling, no less. And then things get really strange.
The drug’s effect is to enhance Lucy’s brain capacity. As it starts to climb – 20 per cent, 30 per cent and so on – Lucy can suddenly speak Chinese. She can shoot six guys at a time. She can hear, see and feel everything. She remembers being an infant. She calls her mother back home: “I remember the taste of your milk in my mouth,” she says, tearfully.
Because she’s becoming so smart – Lucy uses two laptops at a time, furiously unlocking the secrets of science – she realises that her condition means that she has only 24 hours to live. Here’s where you shouldn’t get bogged down in any attempt at logical analysis. As in, if Lucy can control movement and space and time, why can’t she expand her 24- hour lifespan? And really, why does she need to fly to Paris on a commercial airline?
Oh yes, Paris. Lucy heads there to meet Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman, in that gravelly voiced, level-headed role you’ve seen him play so many times), an expert on cerebral capacity.
Simultaneously, she’s trying to recover all the drug packets, with the help of a police detective (Amr Waked) who really doesn’t know what’s hit him but they do have an awesome car chase together.
Professor Norman advises Lucy that as she approaches 100 per cent brain capacity – and death – she should do something useful with all the precious knowledge she’s acquiring.
Then, it gets even stranger.
We won’t give away the frantic ending – honestly, we’re not sure we could, even if we tried. At a certain point, the best strategy may be to just sit back, listen to the pounding music, admire those bright colours and just shut that brain of yours down entirely.
–Courtesy of The National