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Lucy: Painfully Stupid No Matter What Percent of Your Brain You Use

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | July 25, 2014 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | July 25, 2014 |

Lucy is an exceedingly stupid movie. It tries to be a special-effects laden superhuman action film but has unimaginative and dull action sequences. It tries to be pop-psych deep philosophy about our minds and the nature of the universe, but has not the slightest conception of anything about science or the way the human brain works.

The ten percent myth is beyond stupid. It’s not clever, it’s not philosophical, it’s just a hint that the writer has so little commitment to telling a good story that he can’t be bothered to know things like facts. But fine, right, it’d be one thing in passing, used just as a shorthand for “we’re capable of so much more”, used as a label to let the audience know what it’s going on about and not dwelling on it. But no. The film uses the ten percent bullshit throughout the entire movie. It has an opening monologue of Morgan Freeman saying things like dolphins use twenty percent of their brains and that’s why they have sonar. You know, not because they have a fucking organ that shoots sound waves out of their skull. It pretends like it’s quoting actual science when it says that other animals use at most three percent of their brain. And I start to question whether they know what “percent” even means, as in a portion of what is already there. We don’t magically start shooting sonar out of our fucking heads just because we take a drug that lets us think harder.

Freeman goes on about how if we used a certain percentage of our brain we’d be able to control matter. A different percentage and we could control other people. Because people aren’t made of matter, you know. A doting audience takes notes and listens devastatingly intently through the steaming piles of shit shoveled their direction, and when someone dares ask if he has any evidence for the complete fucking fictions he’s spouting. Freeman gets a darling laugh from his adoring public as he says that of course not, it’s all hypotheses at the moment (demonstrating the writer doesn’t know what a hypothesis even is) but that Darwin was mocked too.

Hey, you know what else Darwin had? EVIDENCE. He spent thirty years collecting evidence in order to evaluate whether his theory was correct. That’s what science is.

How would I react if I said, you know, most cars only use 10 percent of their power, and if they could use a hundred percent, they would have a rocket launchers, the ability to fly, and could show you what the traffic would be like on that road a hundred years from now? I don’t have any evidence of this either, it’s just a theory. You’d probably tell me that my movie was pretty stupid too.

But fine, deep breath, “it’s just a movie” all the defenders of shutting your brain off at the movie and just rolling with it are saying. That’s bullshit. The people who defend being able to shut your brain off and just enjoy a movie are the same people who’ve never turned their brains on in the first place. People who have never turn on their brains for two straight hours have some nerve telling people with standards that they should theirs off for two hours.

Okay whatever, we’ll roll with that line of reasoning. Let’s mentally screen out the entire basis of the film and the mechanism it returns to over and over again as the central point it has to make. Let’s just hand wave it as magic. Lucy drinks a magic potion. It’s fantasy, not science fiction. What do we have then?

An even shittier movie, because instead of just having no basis in reality, it still grounds itself in making deep philosophical statements about the nature of the universe while being so incoherent it’s surprising that the actors were able to even read the crayon-scrawled dialogue aloud.

Nothing Morgan Freeman says makes the slightest bit of sense. And I don’t mean in the sense that people who have read a wikipedia page or two are more informed about the way the world works than whoever wrote the pseudo-scientific drivel he spouts for the movie’s somehow too long 89 minute run time. I mean that he never speaks two sentences in which one follows from the previous in any logical manner. Actual sequence of dialogue from the movie:

Lucy: “If a car moves so fast that you can’t see it anymore, what evidence do we have that it exists at all?”

Fuck if I’m looking his character’s name up Freeman: “You’re saying that the human is not the unit of measure.”

Lucy: “Time.”

That’s not deep. That’s not even fake deep. That’s random words strung together and spoken with gravity. Nineteen year old philosophy students on LSD wouldn’t even think that was deep and they find the meaning of life in the angle a paper towel hangs at.

The only halfway redeeming feature of the film is the action sequences of the first half hour, because Besson at the very least knows how to shoot action. Of course, then Lucy becomes god and can manipulate space and time at will, which sort of renders any action sequence from then on moot. Remember how Neo in the final scene of The Matrix gets the (more) vacant look on his face and has absolute power? Imagine how boring a movie would be if he reaches that stage in minute thirty and then we pretend there’s still stuff to do for another hour. No matter how you shoot it, there’s no tension to a car chase in which the driver can telekinetically shove all the other cars out of the way, or a gun battle where one person can just pin all the bad guys to the wall.

This movie is worse than Transcendence, and I described that as “a two hour TED talk on the pitfalls of technology delivered by the brownie vendor from Burning Man”. Because at least that movie had a point to make, even if it was a stupid one badly told. This movie is what you get when that brownie vendor’s eleven year old brother gives his own TED talk. Except all he cares about are boobs and guns, and having learned that people smarter than him say words he doesn’t understand concludes that saying a bunch of words he doesn’t understand will therefore sound intelligent.

At one point in this train wreck, Freeman’s character describes his attempt to understand what Lucy is trying to say as “a dog listening to us talk about quantum mechanics”. This movie is that dog barking for an hour and a half.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here and order his novel here.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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