A Spark of Hope

by  Christian A. Brown  |  January 25, 2015  |     No Comments

Last night we watched Lucy in lieu of another film, Snowpiercer. I was mildly disappointed as we turned on the movie, since I’ve been dying to see Tilda Swinton’s hokey performance in Snowpiercer.

Swinton_CackleBut the vote was for Lucy, democracy decided, and that’s what we watched. Have you seen this movie? If not, a brief synopsis: young party-girl/ student, living in the East, gets conned by her sketchy boyfriend (of like a week) into making a “delivery” to a Korean drug Czar. Hmm…probably a bad idea. It gets worse! It turns out that she’s not delivering meth or any other ‘normal’ illicit substance. Rather, she’s delivering a psychotropic/ geneomorphic pharmaceutical that can stimulate previously untapped areas of the human brain. (Why the Korean drug Czar is trafficking in this, one cannot say, #plothole) And so begins a dark chain of events for our Lucy. I’m a fan of when bad things happen to strong women and they cope with their shit, instead of rocking in a corner and losing all ability to function, which only breeds a victim persona. Lucy is still quite human, quite terrified and distraught, but she endures, she’s a survivor. Starting off the “bad things that happen to Lucy” list, first she’s knocked out and surgically turned in a mule: the drugs are sewn inside of flap of skin in her lower abdomen. Later, Lucy is assaulted, a couple times, but most viciously at one point by a man whose sexual advances she refuses. It’s the second incident that breaks the plastic-kangaroo-pouch carrying the mysterious drug inside of her. The drugs then leak out into her bloodstream, and thus begins the process of awakening neurons, pathways and supernatural abilities in Lucy’s mind. In exchange for these incredible powers and perception, she starts to lose a bit of her personality, her humanity; her sense of self.

A fair amount of the movie is spent on action sequences. However, there’s just as much camera time dedicated to panoramas of nature, or scenes where nothing is said at all. Overall, the movie is gorgeously filmed and peppered with lavish imagery. I found it a treat to watch. Writer and Director Luc Besson—Fifth Element, The Messenger: Joan of Arc—has created a power fantasy here, although it’s nice to see a woman in the driving seat. To be clear: it wasn’t a particularly feminist movie, by the many, debatable definitions of that term. However, it wasn’t misogynistic either. In fact, Lucy’s sex was not the determining factor in the power fantasy or the narrative. She could have been a man named Luke, instead (at the risk of indulging in Besson’s vanity). The story wasn’t about sex,  or sexism, but humanity. And I found that focus and narrative refreshing. The story was about our sameness, not our differences.

Lucy, once she gets past her trauma, her “human” and irrational fears, and accepts what has happened to her, manages any number of incredulous feats. When she realizes that her time in her “human” body—filling with incalculable energy, ready to burn out of its flesh—is finite, her goal becomes to seed her vast, cosmic wisdom for future generations. It’s a pleasant and tight narrative, with a soft morality that doesn’t force one dogma or religion upon the viewer. In fact, it’s all very scientific: that cells exist to reproduce, that our only enemy in life is time and the fear of accepting our unity, our fundamental atomic similarity. Lucy, who sees plainly past the fear-of-being as she ascends, represents a mothering, messianic figure for all mankind. (Luc Besson often “saints” his female characters, after a gauntlet of trials.)

Anyway, in order to leave her legacy, Lucy contacts Morgan Freeman, who—gasp—isn’t playing the Almighty for once, but instead a speculative biologist (or something), whose work, coincidentally, speaks to Lucy’s metamorphosis. I honestly can’t remember the name of Morgan’s character. I was calling him “Morgan” the entire time; he’s just too iconic of an actor to not be himself. The drug Czar from whom Lucy escaped continues to chase the ascendant heroine throughout the movie; he wants his drugs back from this super-powered woman that levitates and kicks the shit out of his cronies, because #reasons, #malepride, #wtf, #plothole. Ultimately, his foil nicely encapsulates the terror and desperation of man; a weakness that Lucy has left behind. SPOILER. Even at the climax, where the Korean drug Czar has a gun pressed to Lucy’s head, she still does not fear him. She is unflappable in what she is to do: to leave the legacy of her wisdom for humanity.

It was a great movie. Sure there were a plot holes, bits I found unnecessary, and sometimes Besson can become a victim of his own cinematic grandeur. In movies like this, there is a delicate, delicate balance to find between pomposity and philosophy. Also, in a film spectacle, the message can get lost in the explosions, or be ham-fisted in its rushed delivery. I found that the film worked best when it was quiet, rather than loud. I wanted the movie to be longer. Perhaps more length would have answered the questions with which I was left. Although, padding the script could have come with the risk of philosophical rhapsodizing. And a bit of mystery is necessary in a story trying to express a message of this scope. Not every question needs to be answered in a story. I’d say some of the best stories leave the important questions for us to ask ourselves.

Excusing the movies faults—since sometimes we have to put aside our inner critic and just embrace childlike wonder—I ask myself: what was the message? Well, we fight against time. We fight to be different; to define our individuality. A useless battle, for we are all energy, all thought, all connected in ways unfathomable to our fear-clouded minds. As for Lucy, well, she “ascended” into something of the divine. Heretical? I don’t think so, since she became something very basic, very small. The atom, the spark of life and inspiration. Energy. I like that fantasy: that beneath all of our complexities, we are all united, simple, beautiful sparks. At least that’s what I chose to take away from the movie.

I think that the spiritual side of Lucy—her calm separation, her sense of belonging and refusing classification by society and fear—is inside each of us. I encourage you to find her.

All my love,

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-C

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