(SPOILER ALERT): Chances are that you found yourself saying, “what the hell was that?” or “that’s it?” at the end of this movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. I share the sentiment, but this, I think, is precisely the reaction the movie sought to elicit: that the quest for power and knowledge, when pressed to the extreme, borders on the level of the what-the-fuck-was-that.
Before the film credits roll, Lucy tells us that we now know what to do with the Life we’ve been given. The question is meant to be ironic, since I believe the movie doesn’t really want us to follow Lucy’s path. Sure, we get Lucy’s sympathy at the start when she is kidnapped and made into a drug mule; and we cheer her on as she starts kicking ass, and marvel at her ever-growing mental and physical powers. But sure enough, her newfound abilities come with a cost: her incapacity to feel pain, and the loss of what makes her a human being.
As her humanity disappears, however, so does our sympathy for her. It’s hard to relate to someone like Lucy; she’s not your typical heroine who fights for love, country, or family; she’s turned into a mindless machine bent on just acquiring more knowledge and power. Throughout the movie, even including the opening scene, she doesn’t exercise any will or control over her fate; she’s forced to bring in the suitcase to the reception area, and later on, she becomes a puppet of and a slave to power and knowledge. Once hooked to CPH4, she just can’t help doing the things she does. This is ironic: the more her abilities grow, the more she loses control of herself. And this lack of will, as it were, is reflected in the plot; much of the movie becomes an inexorable march to its conclusion: the attainment of 100% power and knowledge. Apart from the clash with the Korean syndicate, there is little convincing opposition or to get us hooked into the story, if not the character.
‘Lucy’ is yet another cautionary tale of the perils of power, but the warning is somewhat undercut by the fact that few people aspire to be like her. Notwithstanding the (pseudo)science spouted by Morgan Freeman’s character, we would probably be content with tapping 20% of our brain power. Better memory and faster information retention would be nice upgrades.
But then again, when have we humans ever been content with what we have? And there are, I suppose, people who really want absolute power in all its forms. At any rate, Lucy may have been on an absurd, barely-believable quest for power, but the idea of manipulating nature and dominating the world is one of the driving ideologies of science and modernity, what with its never-ending quest for progress and development. That idea also finds a bit of an echo in our voluntarist, can-do, sky’s-the-limit attitudes, and is mirrored in a certain country’s foreign policy; it is somewhat present in our culture of relentless self-improvement and self-empowerment. The best-selling book, The Secret, teaches us, among other things, to unlock the power of our thoughts to create the life we want. And the novel, The Alchemist, informs us that when we want something, the Universe is conspiring with us to get it. As in some German idealist philosophers after Kant and in the movie, The Matrix, the world is subject to our will; reality is malleable stuff, mere clay in our mortal hands. No wonder Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God; humanity killed Him, if only for us to replace Him.
This, essentially, is what Lucy comes down to; an omniscient, omnipresent being who can control the physical laws of the universe, bend time, and manipulate cellphone signals. This is what Lucy has done with Life; of course, none of us, except a few perhaps, will take up her example. But let not the absurdity of her story detract us from its valuable aral.