It seems, translated from the French, “Luc Besson,” in English, is “Michael Bey.” Both directors are renowned for their visual style, slick editing, and the way they can attract A-list actors to their projects. Both are also noted for efforts that favor style over substance.
Besson’s breakout film was Nakita (1990), which inspired two remakes and two television series. At the time of its release one film critic said it heralded “the end of French cinema as we know it,” a comment not intended as a compliment. French cinema continued and so did Besson, involved with the production, writing, or direction of over two dozen films including The Family, Léon: The Professional, Taken 2, Transporter, and The Fifth Element. His latest film is Lucy.
Lucy could be Nikita 2.0. She too gets mixed up in something that involves drugs (a pharmacy robbery for Nikita, Lucy’s a reluctant drug mule), things go wrong (Nikita kills a police officer, the drugs she’s carrying inside her body get into Lucy’s bloodstream) and as a result she is transformed (Nikita into a government assassin, Lucy into a freelance assassin).
Lucy is a delight to watch, with the expected visual flair one comes to expect from Besson. The problem comes in buying into the movie’s premise. The substance Lucy is carrying is some sort of performance enhancing drug that allows her to access all of her brain rather than the ten percent most of us get by with. The only problem is, that “10%” figure is a scientific urban myth, a number somebody threw out years ago that nobody verified. Modern neuroscience has confirmed that (BRACE YOURSELF) your brain, unless moderated by “something” (alcohol, sleep-deprivation, a baseball bat)—right now, your brain is already running at 100 percent. You are not going to get better than what you are right now, ever, no matter what you do. (Yeah, I know some of you are taking Ritalin or NoDoz or 5-hour Energy or whatever but that doesn’t count.) And if you think about it… thanks to the Creator or Nature or who/how/whatever, we have the biggest brains on the planet relative to body size and we can only use 10 percent of them? It’s like paying from broadband but only having dial-up speed. As a premise you could just as well say Lucy got her special abilities from exposure to Earth’s yellow sun or fairy dust.
Okay, Lucy’s not supposed to be a documentary, true, but you can’t take Lucy seriously as science fiction, science, or fiction. What it is, it’s a Luc Besson movie. It’s not David Fincher or Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s the Art House version of Michael Bey. It’s fast. It’s pretty. It’s entertaining. And when it’s over your worldview will not have changed. Unless you are running at 10%.