I saw Luc Besson’s action-science fiction film Lucy at IMAX. It’s about a girl who gets roped into a drug smuggling operation, accidently absorbs the drug, increasing her brain power from 10% to 20% and so on while chasing after the rest of the drugs in order to reach 100%, defeat the antagonist, and ascend. This may be a very important science fiction flick, even if it’s not the best film.
The tale Lucy tells is similar to Katsuhiro Otomo’s AKIRA (1988) but not, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) but not, Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel (1973) but not. All four tell a story about a protagonist, or antagonist, who is uncontrollably thrust into a cosmic level of power beyond their wildest dreams that forces a significant change in their psyche, persona and, possibly, spirit.
2001: A Space Odyssey, AKIRA, and Captain Marvel are benchmark-milestones in science fiction, cinema and comics. Each not only expanded the metaphysical side of existence within the genre, but also helped develop and encourage growth in this style of storytelling, with some great and some lackluster successors. Lucy is somewhere above the middle.
It’s a cool, stylish, well shot film with good acting and extensive research to ground its science. Besson had Lucy percolating for years before he actually committed to it, researching various lines of enquiry to base the film in some truth.
However, the film lacks the gravitas a concept of this magnitude, essentially the ascension of a woman into a higher state of being, needs. But I don’t think that matters too much as the film’s playfulness, common to many of Besson’s films, helps ground the film for casual movie goers, which I’m guessing was part of his aim here, along with the way the film feeds you information. Like any good heady science fiction, the expository dialogue drip feeds us everything we need to know to understand the fundamental changes and science therein. It’s in similar fashion to the way Inception (2010) explains what’s going on but a weeny bit more on the nose of a spoon-feeding.
Lucy depicts the protagonist’s journey through the prism of the 10% myth, in which we’re said to use only 10% of our brainpower. Really, it’d be more accurate to say that we only use 10% of our consciousness’ potential, which in the film Lucy unlocks after accidently absorbing an experimental drug directly into her system after a little scuffle, rewriting her brain, or perhaps expanding her consciousness, to gain godly powers.
From here, Lucy begins to note facets of deep reality, which talk can be found in quantum physics, neuroscience, ancient mysticism and certain theories, philosophies and notions adopted by New Agers. She claims that death is meaningless and that we’re all connected; notions, I believe, are best presented in David Bohm’s Implicate Order theory of reality.
Like in Bohm’s theory that concludes an intelligence permeates the implicate orders of reality, Lucy too ends up as an intelligence, once she reaches 100%, with the capability to manipulate various aspects of nature, like space-time.
The science here follows notions developed in and from quantum physics as Lucy’s consciousness expands in potency. Like at the quantum level of physical reality, ‘time, space, and consciousness are intimately interrelated and inseparable’ (Pinchbeck 2007), put forth in the Uncertainty Principle, strongly suggesting consciousness affects matter.
This insight leads Lucy to note how time is an illusion — a notion shared by general relativity’s 4-dimensional space-time, the Implicate Order, Julian Barbour’s Platonia, other quantum mechanical theories, and certain ancient shamanistic beliefs, such as the Hopi understanding of time. It’s a bit of a head fuck, at first, right? But cool.
By the end, once she groks time, she transcends time’s boundaries imposed on us through our “10%” minds, travelling through various epochs of Earth’s history. This scene’s similar to when DC’s New Gods’ Metron travels through time on his cosmic-chair in Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones’ event graphic novel Final Crisis, or when the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl tells Hector, in Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose’s outstanding graphic novel Sacrifice, “From the spirit world, all points in time are accessible.” An intelligence potent enough can affect reality on a cosmic scale. This ultimately signifies Lucy’s transcendence at the story’s climax.
Some people may compare this to AKIRA in terms of her powers, but in this regard Lucy’s psychic power falls more in line with growing into the Implicate Order’s underlying intelligence at the heart of everything (known as Brahman in Hinduism) than the likes of AKIRA, where the psychics are possessed by an infinitely powerful cosmic force, which would be akin to an order of reality using a human consciousness as a font. Thus, Lucy essentially ascends into an intelligence, grander than us but smaller than God, who’s interweaved within everything.
I think if Lucy was more in tone with Otomo’s novel version of AKIRA, which I’m guessing was some of the design and story inspiration for Besson, it would have been better at depicting the concepts, as the graphic novel AKIRA deals with similar themes of psychic evolution but depicts it in a more abstract manner, similar to 2001, or even David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), each portraying such epic changes in and of the mind as if something greater than yourself and current comprehension is taking place.
Something even similar in tone to The Wachowskis’ Cloud Atlas (2012), another milestone in science fiction, which dramatically accentuated its notion of the universal forces of nature, like love or justice, know no bounds: bringing together soulmates across several different times and spaces — Guitar Wolf was right when he screamed, “ACE! Love has no borders, nationalities, or genders!” Such drama, though, isn’t necessary in taking in the message… really.
These types of science fiction move away from the mechanistic worldview of Cartesian dualism, instead adopting notions of reality that expand beyond even most current scientific worldviews to wrap around all facets of reality. It’s stuff I crave, search for, wait for. In this respect, Lucy is pretty important.
Here, the Hard Problem of the Consciousness – the debate that includes whether consciousness arises from quantum matter or something ethereal, such as the union of body and soul – underlies the speculation of the fiction. This in itself seems like good ground to begin the deeper side of discussion viewers might have about Lucy, because, like Cloud Atlas, Lucy challenges the viewer with science fiction for the new age that’s awakening to the acceptance of such grand concepts of reality.
Fret not, though. Besson, like any good director, never sells you the philosophies underlying the notions in this film. He, through action and dialogue, let’s you decide yourself what you want to believe. He leaves you the opportunity to adopt, reject or debate what Lucy is about. So, enjoy! It’s a fun movie.