The human brain is at the exact wrong level of intelligence: it’s very good at identifying problems and very bad at fixing them. Most animals can’t grasp the abstract idea that they will die some day, so it’s impressive that humans can… But what good is it to know that fact when our brains can’t really process or accept our own mortality? Our brains work well enough that they can deduce that invisible gasses released over a long enough time frame will create chain reactions in the atmosphere that will produce changes in the ambient temperature of the globe. (That’s amazing when you think about it.) At the same time, our brains are also so hardwired towards us versus them thinking that making the political changes that would slow climate change is almost impossible. (That’s almost too depressing to think about.) Or, to speak from personal experience: how is it that my brain can recognize when it’s letting my OCD tendencies run wild, but it can’t help itself?
Lucy is a new movie about a woman who accidentally absorbs a drug that instantly evolves her brain to an unlimited degree. With her unimaginably powerful brain does she create answers to mankind’s deepest existential problems? Does she dream up the scientific fixes we desperately need if we’re going to maintain our civilization at the level it’s currently at? Does she unravel human psychology as so many have tried to do with such limited results?
No, she gets in a gun fight with the drug dealer who gave her the drugs.
Some people that see Lucy are frustrated by the fact that the movie basically refuses to engage with it’s premise in any serious way: at no point does Lucy do anything with her supposedly awe-inspiring intelligence that actually seems intelligent. There’s another camp of people who see this bait and switch as a plus: given that these problems are actually unsolveable, it’s probably better for the movie to not bullshit the audience by giving them gibberish koans about the unknowability of the cosmos and instead focus on what it actually can do, namely, show us exciting shoot outs.
I’m definitely in the latter camp. Movies about intelligence are often terrible because it’s hard to visually represent genius; no one needs a movie where someone proves they are super-smart by pretending to speed-read a book. (Limitless, your completely garbage piece of crap, I’m looking at you.) Director Luc Besson throws in a few scenes where Lucy reads a whole bunch of Wikipedia articles at the same time, but that’s basically a sideshow in front of the real action, which is when Lucy uses her new super-brain to levitate her enemies or to do magic tricks with nearby computer screens. There’s no real reason why being smarter would make you control electrical devices, but the movie at least has a sense of humor about how ridiculous it is, which made it easy for me just to roll with it.
Perhaps Lucy’s script would have been better if it followed a more logical path, or if it asked for fewer indulgences from the audience. But I suspect that it doesn’t really matter; with this sort of nonsense you might as well be in for a penny as in for a pound. It seems like the writers understood exactly where the problems were going to be and then decided that they weren’t even going to bother trying to think up a fix for them. That led to a movie that’s kind of dumb, but honestly, that might be the best our limited human brains can do.