Brief Review: Lucy

Just saw “Lucy”. Good film. European sensibilities about a lot of it, which is not surprising, I guess. But it was refreshing to watch something “not Hollywood”.

The “science” was about 90% nonsense, which was a little hard to ignore, since certain tropes, like the old “you only use 10% of your brain” canard, were really central to the film’s structure (I was hoping it would just be a quick soundbite I could easily ignore, but no). Also, every time they said that life started “a billion years ago”, I had to keep mumbling “three point eight” under my breath.


Still from “Lucy”, Directed Luc Besson, Starring Scarlett Johansson

Apparently the writer felt that any sort of nonsense would be accepted if you get Morgan Freeman to say it, and I have to admit, it’s almost true.

“Lucy” is a reference to the proto-human given that name by anthropologists, as well as to the protagonist. I get the impression the “Lucy” hominid has a bigger pop-culture appeal in France, as I’ve seen references in other films. Singling her out as “the first human” is a bit silly, both because she wasn’t yet remotely human and because evolution just doesn’t work like that — there was no “first human” that you could single out.

However, if you just plug your ears and say “la la la” through the techno-babble, then it’s a moving film about trans-human transcendence. And on the level of feelings, I found the film quite effective. It left me with a difficult-to-define kind of thoughtfulness about the human condition and our place in the cosmos. And if a film can do that, then it’s a pretty good film, regardless of whether it manages to get the technical stuff right.

The action aspect of the film was disturbing on a different level. It would be a very sad thing if the first thing a trans-human prodigy should do is to kill a lot of people with a sociopathic calm. I would hope such a creature would be more compassionate, not less, although one could certainly make an argument about extreme circumstances in the film we’re given — it was certainly not a painless or controlled emergence in this story, so some violence is perhaps unavoidable. But mainly, I get the feeling that the film is using this kind of action to attract an audience for the deeper philosophical aspects which by themselves wouldn’t appeal to a broader audience.

And again, if a film can get your blood pumping and make you think, then that’s a good film.

Johansson’s acting was a challenge in this film, as it required her to transition quite far from a human personality. This results in a few moments of intentional woodenness which sometimes is very convincing, but other times seems just like underacting. Overall, though, I think it was a good job on difficult material.

Freeman’s role is nearly that of a narrator. He’s there to give voice and impact to the philosophical ideas of the film, and he fills that role well.

Other characters in the film are well-acted for their parts, though few stand out — the film is pretty closely focused on Lucy herself, so we don’t get much into other characters, except as they relate to her.


About Terry Hancock

Terry Hancock is the producer and director of "Lunatics" ( ). He is also a regular columnist for Free Software Magazine ( ), and a lifelong advocate for space, science, and technology. More at
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