Director: Luc Besson
In Her, Scarlett Johansson’s voice played the role of a constantly evolving operating system that went from a little more than Siri-type intelligence to achieving what some could call ‘enlightenment’ in human terms.
With Lucy, Johansson’s now managed to put herself in a league beyond mere cinema. She’s managed to embed herself in an entire generation’s psyche as the face, voice and representation of the super-evolved, consummate, ultimate human being. With a fabulous pout. Any other kind of role from this point forward will be a serious letdown.
Paeans to Johansson’s performance aside, the film de-seats you off the theatre floor and propels you into another dimension. Unlike the Matrix series, it doesn’t merely make you wonder about the illusion of your existence. It changes your perspective 360 degrees. Unlike Avatar, it doesn’t make you look at nature and the environment as a precious gift to preserve; it makes you wonder at your own role in it. And unlike Johansson’s own 2013 film Her, it doesn’t merely hint at what must happen when humans achieve self-actualization; it shows it.
The film is based on the pop-sci belief that humans use only 10% of their cerebral brain capacity (the theory been refuted in the past few years). The filmmaker goes on to demonstrate what he thinks would happen if we were to use 100% of it. The plot is improbable, of course – a girl-next-door caught in a gory drug racket; a synthetic drug that mimics the hormones produced in tiny doses in the mother’s womb to accelerate growth; a woman who operates at increasing mental prowess due to the accidental ingestion of half a kilo of this drug in her body. There are guns, splatters of blood, dangerous gangsters and a high-speed car chase (it’s strictly A-rated). There’s even a (tiny, little, almost negligible) semblance of a kiss. In short, it’s got all the mandatory ingredients of a Luc Besson action movie.
And then there’s more.
There’s the idea that when we go beyond our usual ways of thinking, we see differently – we see vibes and signals and frequencies. We hear differently – we hear others’ thoughts, translate languages mentally, pick up the earth’s movements. We feel differently – we can recall every memory and emotion we’ve ever felt from the time we were conceived. We touch differently – telekinesis is a given. We can change the very composition of our cells – who said we are only born with one kind of hair colour? – and, in general, behave like some of sci-fi’s coolest heroes.
The premise is certainly not new. We’ve had mentions in our oldest Indian texts of humans with cerebral super-powers. The Mahabharat is a convenient example. Sanjay – you could call him the first journalist – reported events happening miles away to King Dhritarashtra through his mental antennae. Arjuna could shoot an impossible target with a bow twice his weight. Duryodhana was invincible except for his Achilles thigh. Bhishma could choose the time of his death. Draupadi produced yards of sari evoking Krishna – effectively creating matter from mind. Our ancestors were 90 percenters for sure.
But then, the story lies in telling of it, and Besson – remember The Fifth Element? – is a terrific storyteller.
The film also touches upon new-age spiritual philosophies and techniques – such as the idea of letting go of fears and limitations, and using spots on the head a la Access Bars. It offers an old Eastern take on death – it’s not an end, merely a change in form – told in a very glossy, Western, wham-bang sort of way. There’s not a single dull moment; on the contrary, you wish the film would go on a bit longer so that you could mull over and absorb all the implications of – for want of a better phrase – playing god.
We can’t really say what would happen if humans began using 100% of their brain capacity. But that doesn’t stop the world looking a little sharper, the sounds a little clearer, your body a little more alert when you exit the cinema hall.
First published on TheNewsMinute.com