If the human brain currently operates at 10 percent of its potential, what would it be capable of achieving if it functioned at 100 percent? This is the question that the film Lucy (2014) aims to explore. The film addresses the expansion of a woman’s intellectual consciousness with the aid of a synthetic drug. Although the human brain operating at only 10 percent has been debunked, director/ writer Luc Besson provides an interesting and thought-provoking portrayal of the myth in what would otherwise be an average sci-fi action film.
Lucy is a young woman who lives a seemingly care-free partying lifestyle. She gets unwillingly involved in the drug trade as a mule through a man she has been dating for a week. While Lucy is in transition, transporting the dangerous drug, a violent incident results in her obtaining powers which allow her access and utilise all of her cognitive abilities. With the aid of these new abilities Lucy seeks revenge against the people who enslaved her and sets off to find retribution by means of violence.
Scarlet Johansson, who plays the main character Lucy, is not new to the genre of science fiction; she starred in the futuristic romance “Her” (2013) as the voice of Samantha, an operating system, an alien in “Under the Skin” (2013), Black Widow in the Marvel cinematic franchise and a clone in “The Island” (2005). What is notable about Johansson is her ability to choose and portray roles which humanise characters even when the context of the film is undoubtedly fictional. In Lucy, her character appears to be emotionally disconnected from the world due to her new abilities and yet she still manages to briefly engage in three essential relationships; parental, romantic and friendship.
However, what makes Lucy a film worth watching is not Johansson’s performance; it is memorable because of its unconventional cinematic qualities and philosophical direction. The film challenges the viewer to think as Morgan Freeman takes on the role of Professor Norman who aims to provide the film with a sense of educational legitimacy. Cinematically, Besson incorporates classical music into the fighting scenes. He fuses dramatic sequences with animal documentary edits, comparing characters to predators and prey. Through this comparison Besson perpetuates the idea that even though people are intellectual beings who have created a world which has access to advanced communication and technology, we are still at the foundation primal. Philosophically the film attempts to answer what are arguably life’s most mysterious questions such as the meaning of life, what happens after death and what is beyond the observable universe. The viewer witnesses Lucy grow in mental capacity to a point where she subtly attempts to answer these questions while transcending past time and space.
Scientists and philosophers alike have explored ideas of the aptitudes of the human mind and whether it has limitations. Regardless of individual schools of thought, Lucy is a great adaptation of these ideas and makes for great conversation post-viewing even though it is primarily an action film.