Friday, July 25, 2014

Lucy [2014]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Lucy [2014] (written and directed by Luc Bessen) is an appropriately R-rated (for violence / drugs) film about limits and transcendence and the limits to our (human) ability to transcend, well, our limitations.  Yes, I wrote that sentence in that way on purpose ;-).  So while the film definitely ought to give parents pause as they discerned whether or not they really wanted their teenager to go to see it, it could be very good fodder for college aged young adults as they pondered the questions of limits and transcendence of them.

Transcendence is, of course, an age old religious theme.  In Christian anthropology, we're told that we have a mortal body and a transcendent, that is, eternal soul (our body dies but a part of us does remain).  The quest to transcend the limits of our human nature -- again, in Christian anthropology we're told that we were made "in the image of God" (Gen 1:27) but that, obviously, we are _not_ Gods -- is again an age old quest.  Yet it often leads to bad, that is, sinful decisions (The story of the Fall from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, is in fact, a story of seeking to transcend the limits of our human nature, that is, a story of _transgressing_ divinely imposed limits to our human nature to in a quest to "become like Gods.")

But as times change, new situations and new temptations arise.  Okay, our bodies will eventually fall apart (we'll die).  But what if we could "upload our minds" onto a computer / the internet?  Could we attain a certain physical immortality that way?   That's the idea behind the recent Johnny Depp / Morgan Freeman vehicle Transcendence [2014]

Or putting aside rather ultimate quest for immortality, could we set-aside the limits of our mind by consuming some mind enhancing drug?   Athletes have been tempted to inject and ingest various performance enhancing drugs.  Could a similar enhancement of the mind be accomplished through the injecting/ingesting of a "mind enhancing drug" as well?  That's then the idea behind the recent Bradley Cooper vehicle Limitless [2011] and the film considered here.

So then the current film, Lucy [2014], the name taken from the one given to the 3.2 million year old  Australopithecus skeleton excavated in Ethiopia in the 1970s and is posited to be the oldest skeleton of a human ancestor to be found to date, is about a similarly "random"/yet representative human woman of today named Lucy (and played quite marvelously in wide-eyed/often terrified "method acting" fashion by Scarlett Johansson) who by circumstance (really as a result of some fairly bad, yet seemingly random/banal choices ... she could have been ANY _largely "unthinking"_ contemporary American "party girl") finds herself at a rather AWESOME crossroads in human history.

What did she do? Or perhaps more appropriately, what did she find herself getting herself into?  Well through a really, really "bad choice" of a random hook-up presumably at some party somewhere, she finds that her new beau was a random two-bit courier for a Taiwanese drug-dealer and ... one thing leading to another, she finds herself, after being knocked-out/pistol-whipped by one of said Taiwanese drug-dealers, waking-up having had a bag of a bluish crystalline "wunder-drug" sown into her abdomen, which she was being "asked" (mafia style...) to help smuggle (as a "drug mule") into Europe where the drug gang was expecting to make a killing selling said "wunder drug" to "looking for the next high" Euro-youth.  When one of her drug-gang/captors tries to make a pass at her the night before she was going to be put on a flight to Europe, she resists, and he kicks her abdomen ... presumably making the bag inside her "begin to leak" ...

After this rather horrifying decent into a quite imaginable terrestrial Hell, the story really begins.  Perhaps to no one's surprise, the drug leaking inside of her "messes with her mind" (after all, that was its whole point and why the drug gang was expecting to make money off of it).  However, what becomes surprising is HOW the drug "messes with her mind" ... it appears to "unlock" the mind's potential. 

For parallel to the story of random American party girl Lucy's descent into lots and lots of trouble out in Taiwan, we hear another American, a neuroscientist (played by Morgan Freeman), giving a lecture to American college students about the "evolutionary limits of the human mind."  He notes that humans only use about 10% of their brain's potential, that this is more than the average animal's brain use  (though apparently dolphins use 20% of their brain's potential, allowing them the added sensory ability of "echo-location").  He asks the question, "What could happen if we came to use 20, 40, 80 or even 100% of our brain's potential?"  adding "When will we move-up 'the dial' of evolutionary change and enter into the realm of revolutionary change?"  Little does he know that even as he is speaking, there's a previously random/average American party girl out in Taipei, Taiwan who's injested a drug that's done exactly what he's been talking about ... broken down whatever limits preventing the human mind from using all 100% of its potential.

So back to Lucy ... Finding herself suddenly WAY SMARTER (and more capable, in surprising new ways...) than her captors, she quickly finds her escape from the drug dealers.  She also realizes that she's ingested an UNCONTROLLED (and probably WAY-OVER-ANY-LIMIT) amount of this mind altering drug.  So she realizes that she's living on borrowed time.   Frantically (and yet, thanks to the drug, also quite capably...) she looks up the above mentioned neuroscientist and ... asks for his help.  The rest of the movie, at a frenetic pace, follows...

Again, this film is clearly not one "for kids" or even "for teens" (who might be tempted to play with drugs in various stupid manners ...). 

However, the movie does actually ask a very interesting question: If you found yourself in the situation of Lucy (no matter HOW she/you got there) and you knew that you've been given some very special abilities EVEN AS "THE CLOCK WAS TICKING" and YOU'D PROBABLY DIE AS A RESULT ANYWAY, what would you use those special GRACED moments / abilities for?  And what would you like to leave behind?

Again, this film is about limits and transcendence and the limits to our ability to transcend our limits ;-)

Great stuff to think and argue about for a bunch of 20 year olds ;-)

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