Thursday, July 31, 2014

"We Never Really Die": A Review of "Lucy"

Sigh. Where to start on Lucy? (WARNING: SPOILERS)

The film starts out well enough: a young lady studying abroad in Taiwan gets caught up in a drug smuggling ring that nearly kills her. But instead of killing her, the triad running the ring decides to use her as a carrying case for their latest drug, guaranteed to be the stuff "European kids will go crazy for." This new stuff, however, proves to be something far more potent than even the triad boss and his cronies could have imagined: synthetic CPH4, which after it leaks into Lucy's (played by Scarlett Johanssen) bloodstream gives her superpowers by unlocking the potential of her neurons and brain, allowing her inhuman amounts of access to her cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain. With those powers she ultimately defeats the bad-guys and is able to stop the drugs from going mainstream.

If only it ended at that, I would have enjoyed the movie more. Unfortunately, it goes far beyond that into the realm of quantum physics, of philosophy, and the nature of the universe, with Lucy coming to the conclusion that it is time, not God, not experience, not love, not mere existence, that gives life meaning. Time becomes god, and by transcending time via the drug and achieving 100% use of the brain's capacity, Lucy somehow unlocks the deepest secrets of the universe by becoming one with time, diffusing her existence across time and space and even into the time before Time to the point of her dissolving into matter and sending a text message to her French partner at the end, saying "I am everywhere."

While the graphic and cinematic artistry is great, the entire message of Time being the giver of meaning made me sick. So...that's it? Nothing more? It's this kind of pseudo-scientific rubbish, worthy of Richard Dawkins, that makes me question theoretical science and all the power that Scientism claims to have. Lucy should become Scientism's commercial face, for all the good it will do. It's essentially Transcendence with a much better looking lead (Sorry Johnny Depp: you're a great actor, but you're not my type or gender preference). It is one of the most blatant modernist messages I have witnessed in years: if only man could harness the power of science and unlock the power of the brain, we may become as gods ourselves. That's the claim that the modernists and progressivists propagated for most of the XX Century, and the history shows that humanity is all the worse for having bought into the mantras of charlatans spouting false science and scientific ideology. The body count is all the evidence one needs to come to that conclusion.

Beyond the naked propaganda for bad science, what really sickened me was how Lucy becomes less and less human the more and more CPH4 she ingests. The more powerful she becomes, the more and more she resembles a monster; no, worse, a machine: cold, calculating, utterly ruthless, unburdened by morality and ethics, and murderous. In effect, she becomes a beast-machine, burdened only by natural needs such as food and...entertainment. The message of the ascension of the beast-machine with control over all things is terrifying but more to the point outrageous and disgusting to those of us who believe in something More than mere existence.

It is true that we exist in Time and Space, but that fact is not the sum total of our existence. Our choices, our beliefs, our loves, our hates, our being, means more than that. Further, I would like to point out that everything that Lucy experiences is sensate: derived from the senses. And that, she seems to say, is all one needs. But human nature and history reject this notion: from the paleolithic age to this day, man has been aware of a higher existence, something that transcends, in the truest sense of the word, the sorrows and shocks of mortal life. Man, endowed with a soul, has not been satisfied with his mere material existence. And he has come into contact with that Higher Form, in one way or another, that Christians and Jews and Muslims call "God." So did the Greeks, Sumerians, Egyptians, Harrapans, and ancient Chinese. The Romans drew upon the Greek understanding and applied the laws of heaven to nature, noting that life adheres to orders that had to have a beginning, that could not have existed or come into being on their own. Thomas Aquinas makes the same observation.

If Time the Devourer was the sum of everything, then why do we exist? We are just some cosmic joke or anomaly, according to that logic. Yet no civilization has ever believed that. Something had to have changed their minds or have given them the initial impression. We Christians call that Divine Revelation; call it what you want, it has existed in every civilization, and since I don't believe in coincidences, that each action and idea has a distinct consequence, something is there, beyond time and beyond space and yet also of them. For me, that is God. And do we really slip into time, forgotten? What about memory? What of the soul? Lucy seems to reject the notion of the soul. Can we really be so callous and cynical about the truest essence of our Self? One of my favorite authors makes the observation that yes, man might just be a bundle of atoms and cells. That energy, though, never is destroyed, but is converted. What is to say that the only energy we are converted into is the dirt beneath our feet? What if the energy of our soul continues to exist beyond the mortal realm?

I also take issue with Lucy's final act: the conversion of the sum of all knowledge into a computer chip and then saying "Now you know what to do with it (all the information in the universe)." To quote Eliot, "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" Here's my question to Lucy: You never told us what to do with it. We have it, but we have no way to apply it. And guess what? Humans being what they are, will soon abuse the information you have given us and use it to destroy themselves, if not in physical existence than in spiritual being. Conceivably, the knowledge would destroy our planet. You're a false prophet: in Christianity, Jesus explains to us what our purpose is and how to apply God's grace and gifts to better ourselves and those around us and our planet. You would reduce us to beasts, something less than human, not more.

The fact that humans only use 10-12% of their brain's capacity is not a handicap. Look at what we've been able to accomplish with it at just an average 11%! We've built great civilizations and systems and works and machines. We are pushing the boundaries in everything. We are greater when we are human, capable of so much. Yes, we might be so much more if we had more brainpower, but then again we might be so much less, as well, as Lucy's beast-machine goes to show. I firmly believe that there are some things that we humans are better off not knowing, and that to try and make ourselves into something we are not would destroy our identity and uniqueness as creations made in the image of God. So thanks but no thanks for the claims to godhood.

Pros: Great cinematography, graphics, interesting premise initially
Cons: forgettable characters, half-baked science, unrealistic finale
Final Grade: 4/10

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