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Another sci-fi film that eschews the science for too much fiction.
By Tom Glasson
August 01, 2014
By Tom Glasson
August 01, 2014

They say humans only use 10 percent of their brain capacity. Of course, 'they' are idiots, because even someone operating at just 10 percent would be able to plug that persistent non-fact into Google and discover: it's utter rubbish. 

Speaking of rubbish, Lucy — the new film by French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional — opens this week. Here's the gist: Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a no-hope American student in China who ingests a new party drug that inexplicably boosts her brain capacity from 1 percent to 20 percent. The initial symptoms include: pain, inverted roof crawling and the (again inexplicable) immediate development of expertise in martial arts, small arms fire and quantum mechanics. She also gets shot and doesn't care.

Kids: stay in school, because — apparently — smart people don't feel bullets. 

With her now enhanced brain, Lucy concludes she'll need more of the drug to stay alive and hence comes to blows with the Korean drug baron determined to instead spread it on the streets. And...that's...pretty much it. Lucy gets smarter, drug baron gets stabbier and the police remain phenomenally absent and/or ineffectual. 

Lucy begins by posing a question to the audience: "Life was given to us a billion years ago. What have we done with it?" 89 minutes later it concludes in a similar fashion: "Life was given to us a billion years ago. Now you know what to do with it". 

Wrong. Seriously, I've no idea what the message of this film was. Assuming it wasn't 'take drugs', then it could only have been the line driven by Morgan Freeman's philosopher character Professor Norman: that people with knowledge should pass it on. However, that's already what we do as humans, so actually, we've not learned anything from this film at all.  

The concept of wildly enhanced cerebral activity is an excellent one, and was similarly explored in 2011's Limitless. However, neither it nor Lucy felt confident enough to let the science or ethics of the issue be the sole focus. Both kept the chemistry to a minimum and instead padded their scenes with periodic action sequences and flashy special effects. It's precisely what Dustin Hoffman was referring to several years ago when he publicly bemoaned the lack of intelligent science fiction films and called for smarter scripts. The irony of movies like Lucy is that studios believe the only way to ensure box office success for stories about intelligence is to dumb them down to an almost unintelligible level.

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