Lucy hits theaters today, starring Scarlett Johansson as the titular Lucy, a regular woman who is unwittingly used as a drug mule then develops superpowers when the experimental drugs leak into her system. The drugs make her brilliant and badass. On the other hand, the official synopsis describes her as also growing “merciless” and “beyond human logic” (i.e. Comcast Customer Service: The Movie).
These superpowers rest on the myth of her using “more than 10% of her brain”. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any review of the movie that doesn’t point out the 10% myth as a flaw that’s difficult to ignore. It even inspired us to write about other overused sci-fi tropes.
Director Luc Besson has a response to all these criticisms in a spoiler-ish interview with Vulture.
Some people are complaining about the fact that the science behind your film — the whole idea that humans only use 10 percent of their brains — is not true. What’s your response to that?
It’s totally not true. Do they think that I don’t know this? I work on this thing for nine years and they think that I don’t know it’s not true? Of course I know it’s not true! But, you know, there are lots of facts in the film that are totally right. The CPH4, even if it’s not the real name — because I want to hide the real name — this molecule exists and is carried by the woman at six weeks of pregnancy. Yes, it’s true that every cell in our body is sending 1,000 messages per second, per cell. And in fact, the theory of the 10 percent is an old theory from the ’60s. It’s never been proven. Some people worked on it, and it sounds like it’s not the truth. What is true is that we’re using only 15 percent of our neurons at one time. We never use 100 [percent]. We use 15 percent on [the] left, and then after, we use 15 percent on the right. But we never use more than 15 percent at one time.
The 10 percent is a metaphor in a way. So that’s why I was not bothered by that. I’m always amazed by these people who become scientists at the last minute and go, “This is wrong!” Of course; it’s a film. [Laughs.] What’s more interesting — more than the 10 percent or the 15 percent — is that if we get the capacity of full intelligence, in the film, we say that the first step is the control of the cell, the second step is the control of others, the third is the control of matter, and the fourth is the control of time. And I talked to a lot of scientists, and they believe that at least the first three are possible. They don’t say it’s true, but it’s at least logical. The good thing is when you take a lot of things that are totally right and mix them very well with a few things that are wrong, at the end of the film, you think everything is real. And that’s the magic of film.
Or, to sum up, Luc Besson knew it wasn’t true and didn’t care because he’s blockin’ out the haters:
As long as Luc Besson keeps making movies about women kicking ass, I’ll look past the liberties taken with a sci-fi premise. Although there is something in these three clips that I find genuinely troubling, which I’ll get to in a moment.
In the first video, Oldboy himself (Choi Min-sik) orders her to open a possibly-explosive briefcase at the beginning of the film. Then we have a clip of her after acquiring superpowers, making a call to the police to report a drug operation (and to completely freak out Amr Waked with her new psychic powers).
The next clip is the one I consider to be a problem from a screenwriting perspective. The marketing materials seem geared to the idea that Lucy is the hero, or at least the antihero, of this story. But in this clip we see her shooting a cancer patient on an operating table because she wants the O.R. team to remove the bags of drugs from her stomach instead. Yes, I realize she spotted additional tumors in the patient that were going to kill him anyway, but maybe that guy would have liked to say goodbye to his family before the cancer killed him? Hug his kids one more time? Nah, just shoot him unnecessarily instead. That’ll make us root for Lucy. I’m pretty sure there was a bestselling screenwriting book about this. I believe it was called Save The Cat, But Shoot The Cancer Patient In The Head. Do It. Come On. No One Watching This Has Empathy. Shoot Some Dogs, Too. Audiences Love That.
Wordy title, that.