Movie Review

Lucy and Gnosticism

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Lucy is the 2014 Luc Besson film starring Scarlett Johansson as Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman as a voice you believe so you'll ignore the wrong science and accept the philosophy. Johansson is a student in Taipei who is tricked by her sleazy boyfriend into being a drug mule for Korean gangsters. The bag of drugs sewn into her abdomen breaks when a bad guy kicks her in her stomach, and enters her bloodstream, causing her body's cells to replicate at an exponential rate (without any of the skin sloughing or frequent trips to the bathroom you'd think would ensue) and her brain's processing capacity to quickly zip from 10 percent to 100. The science is poo, the action is okay (if illogical considering the protagonist is telekinetic), but it's a message-film, anyway. I did like how Besson kept cutting away from Johansson slowing being trapped by the gangsters to footage of a gazelle being tracked by cheetahs. But mostly because it was funny.

The plot of the film was just a vehicle for Besson to be symbolic and metaphorical covered by a strong female lead beating up bad guys. "Lucy" the character is named after Lucy the Australopithecus. Johansson's escapades are frequently cut to Freeman giving scientific lectures about evolution and the nature of the human brain (the director knew the "science" of the human brain was false, but maintained it for symbolism). As Lucy's brainpower increases, she's able to control her metabolism, analyze the bodies of other humans, hack into electronic signals, and control other bodies without touch. In the end, she ingests the remainder of her pouch of the drug plus the other three, travels mentally back in time to the Big Bang (with a stop to give her name-source a bit of the divine spark), and downloads her knowledge into a super-sized thumb drive. Her body disintegrates, and her consciousness goes...that wasn't clear; either the web, ala Max Headroom, or the Great Consciousness above us.

After the last scene, when Lucy reached out to her French policeman friend via his phone, Dev said, "I'd rather watch The Fifth Element." I leapt up and said, "Oh! Gnosticism!"

So Gnosticism, you may remember, is an ancient Greek philosophy of the cosmos. Basically, the head god created lesser beings because it was in his nature to create. He, himself, is not physical, but just a big, powerful consciousness. Those lesser beings also created, as they shared his nature. This continued (I don't remember how many generations) until the Demiurge. He also had the nature to create, but he was so far removed from the purity of the head god that his creation included material form — us and the universe. The head god kind of rejected us as red-headed-great-grandchildren. Sophia, the goddess of wisdom (and possibly the mother of the Demiurge), had pity on us. She gave us wisdom and, to some, the divine spark.

In this mythology, the physical is inferior to the point of being evil. Thus Plato's allegory of the cave (where all we see are shadows of what reality should be) and the long-standing argument about whether Jesus can be God and human. Because, according to Gnosticism, if He is truly divine, He cannot have corporeal form; and if He is truly man, He cannot be God.

At any rate, the end-all-be-all goal for those lucky humans with the divine spark is to escape the physical body and join with the great consciousness. You also see this in Buddhism and Hinduism. In Lucy, the title character used her brainpower to escape her mortal coil and apparently become one with the internet. Which, I suppose, is the modern equivalent of the great consciousness overlooking us all.

The movie reaches Gnosticism via transhumanism. Transhumanism attempts to use science to forcefully evolve humanity into greater beings — physically, intellectually, and philosophically. In Lucy's case, she gains control over her body (to include the ability to choose if she feels pain or not), her brainpower explodes, and she becomes freed from emotional limitations. She feels no fear, anger, pity, or need to follow social convention. Her actions are logical, with the goal of reaching Freeman (Professor Norman — "normal man") in Paris to share what she's learned. After a tear-filled call to thank her mother for her life, her attachment to a French policeman is the only sign of any, well, what we would call "humanity," left in her. In the process, she rejects the physical, killing at will, throwing police cars around, refusing to give even one percent of her ability to protect those who are protecting her, and ultimately consuming her own body in her effort to realize her intellectual potential.

Lucy's transition also represents a kind of human-powered singularity. The "Singularity" is a hypothetical point in time when a supercomputer is so advanced it can create computers better than itself. It's the basis for movies such as The Matrix trilogy and The Terminators. The catch here is that the first computer powerful enough to reach that point is not a computer, but a human brain.

Lucy also represents Sophia, herself, in a way. When Lucy realizes that her situation means her lifespan will be cut short, she calls Prof. Norman and asks what she should do. He explains that evolution dictates life tends toward one of two paths — immortality or reproduction. Either way, it's her responsibility to pass on what she's learned. She opts for a kind of immortality and, like Sophia, offers her wisdom for the service of lesser beings. Conversely, another author compared Lucy to Luciferianism, which is similar to Gnosticism, but where Lucifer plays the part of Sophia and the Illuminati are apparently invited to the party.

Not that the film-makers care, but Gnosticism is in direct contradiction with what the Bible teaches. We are not several generations removed from the unknowable God; the only God, Himself, made us and wants a personal relationship with us. The physical is not bad; God made the physical and took on the physical in the form of Jesus. Intelligence was not granted to us by a sympathetic third party; it is a part of how we were created in God's image. Transhumanism doesn't evolve us into a greater lifeform; it is our attempt to compensate for our sinful self-inflicted wounds. And we are not supposed to sacrifice emotion, pain, and affection in our quest to understand God's creation through logic and science. Our actions are not driven solely by the need to reproduce the species, but God gave us emotions for a reason. Not to be ruled by them, but neither to be rid of them for the sake of something better.

At any rate, ScarJo was her perfect beautiful, unemotional, sexy-not-skanky, super anti-hero self. Freeman looked like he couldn't believe what was coming out of his mouth. The cut-aways, inaccuracies, and goofs (like seeing the stunt-driver's face in the rear-view mirror) were enough to keep it light. The R rating was more for violence than anything else. But I think for a more quintessential Luc Besson experience, I'll stick with the Takens and any of the Nikita iterations. And for goofy, philosophical, doesn't-actually-make-sense Besson, I'll definitely go to The Fifth Element.

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Reviews-Critiques

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Published 2-16-14