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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

John Merryman: on 8/6/14 at 1:58am UTC, wrote While I probably won't see this movie, it does raise an interesting issue;...

Georgina Woodward: on 8/4/14 at 9:22am UTC, wrote Some amusing descriptions of the film here. E.g."Chris Klimek, NPR:...

John Cox: on 8/2/14 at 1:47am UTC, wrote Flowers for Algernon

William Orem: on 8/2/14 at 1:43am UTC, wrote Hope you saw the words "Spoiler Alert" . . . !

Thomas Ray: on 8/2/14 at 1:31am UTC, wrote Thanks loads, William, for telling all about a movie that I was planning to...

William Orem: on 8/1/14 at 20:34pm UTC, wrote Looking for a low-level break from your usual high-level philosophizing...


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Blogger William Orem wrote on Aug. 1, 2014 @ 20:34 GMT


Looking for a low-level break from your usual high-level philosophizing about science? Check out Luc Besson's latest: a sci-fi shoot-em-up titled *Lucy* that will keep you crunching popcorn without straining too many neurons.

Okay, it's not really the thinky movie it thinks it is, but it's fun, and the premise is terrific (spoiler alert, obviously).

Our story begins with Lucy, the Australopithecus, sipping water from a primordial stream: hey, look how far make-up has come since *Space Odyssey*! (Plot ideas, not so much; this movie's most interesting parts are *Space Odyssey* on training wheels). Flash forward three million years to Scarlet Johansson as another Lucy, this one a modern-day dimwit who becomes entangled in an evil Japanese scheme to sell a new designer drug. The drug -- it's not clear how the bad guys missed this before they decided to mass-market it -- inadvertently causes people who take it to start utilizing more and more of their untapped cognitive potential. You may remember a similar premise from the 2011 movie *Limitless,* in which . . . well, exactly that.

This time, the bad guys stash a bag of the stuff in poor Scarlet Johansson's abdomen, turning her into a detection-free drug mule. Even worse, halfway to her destination a sadist starts beating her up, kicking her so hard in the gut that the bag full of crystals begins to leak . . .

That's the most intimidating moment of the movie right there, actually. Lucy's enforced participation in these gruesome proceedings; the savagery of the thugs, coupled by the icy sociopathy of the kingpin; it's scary stuff. At exactly this point, however, our suspended disbelief plummets as we dive into what has become the bane of Hollywood thrillers: the whiz-bang CGI sequence. Racing through Lucy's capillaries *Incredible Spider-Man* style, we see what would have been obvious anyway: the leaked drug is infiltrating her brain, causing amazing physiological changes. (The first of these, oddly, is an anti-gravity seizure.)

How we got from "she's becoming more intelligent" to "she's floating on the ceiling" is anyone's guess -- or, rather, it's up to Morgan Freeman, in his usual wise mentor role, to inform us via a series of wildly unscientific lectures. Among the groaners:

The notion that humans only use 10 percent of our brains. Why do so many people think this is true? There isn't a 90 percent block of gray matter that's just sitting in our skulls, not functioning. This movie claims to be about human evolution -- and interrupts itself frequently to montage about the effects of evolving intelligence in the cosmos -- but isn't all that clear on how brains actually evolve. To quote a Scientific American article on this misperception: "Though an alluring idea, the '10 percent myth' is so wrong it is almost laughable . . ."



If you had access to 20% of your brain, science-Morgan tells us, "you could control your own body." (A bit of a head-scratcher: don't humans control their bodies right now? And why does Lucy start having eyeballs from other species?) At 30% you can control other people's bodies as well; next comes telekinesis, morphing, and on up to time travel. How science-Morgan concluded any of these things is left out of the script, probably wisely; just play along.

Religion also gets smooshed in here too, though in a rather perfunctory way: "You never really die," Lucy informs a mere mortal at one point. "I only hope we are worthy of your sacrifice," science-Morgan sighs, as she heads toward her humanity-saving apotheosis. There isn't much of Lucy-as-Savior, though: mostly she kicks ass and shoots guns.

The real fun, however, isn't any of that -- it's in the premise of a dumb, abused woman who quickly becomes not only smart, but smarter than her abusers, then smarter than the police chasing her, the scientists studying her, and everyone else on earth. In a way, we owe all such stories to Arthur Conan Doyle, whose hyper-perceptive detective set the standard (If you doubt the enduring influence of Sherlock Holmes, I would point you toward the Robert Downey Jr. movies, the PBS re-runs of the magnificent Jeremy Brett, the runaway British success *Sherlock*, the American TV shows *Elementary* or *The Mentalist* or even *House* . . . among still others.)

Now it's Lucy, who can out-think the rest of us with ease as she evolves up the Kurzweil ladder of rapidly accelerating intelligence. If only the movie stayed with that idea, which is something that is actually on the way -- technologically enhanced super-intelligence, when we boot-strap ourselves into another evolutionary phase altogether -- instead of the magical stuff. As Mr. Spock, an earlier Sherlock Holmes knock-off, would have said, that's fascinating.

credit: public library toronto


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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Aug. 2, 2014 @ 01:31 GMT
Thanks loads, William, for telling all about a movie that I was planning to see this weekend!

" ... mostly she kicks ass and shoots guns."

Oh. Well then, it's got to be worth it. :-)

Tom

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Blogger William Orem replied on Aug. 2, 2014 @ 01:43 GMT
Hope you saw the words "Spoiler Alert" . . . !

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John R. Cox replied on Aug. 2, 2014 @ 01:47 GMT
Flowers for Algernon

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Georgina Woodward replied on Aug. 4, 2014 @ 09:22 GMT
Some amusing descriptions of the film here. E.g."Chris Klimek, NPR: "'Lucy' does for recreational drugs what 'The Fantastic Four' did for Gamma Rays...."

Article ends: Movies this big and this weird don't come along often." Sam Adams July 25, 2014, Indiwire/Criticwire

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 6, 2014 @ 01:58 GMT
While I probably won't see this movie, it does raise an interesting issue; That of transcending one's boundaries. Especially when you consider the extent to which we very much are what define us.

While the premise of this movie and all such heroic stories and myths, is to reach for some super human powers or idealized state of grace, insight, knowledge, the reality is often the opposite, that when our bonds are broken, we fall.

As incredibly complex organisms which have taken billions of years, necessary or not, to reach this state, those next steps we imagine tend to have far more consequences than we would like to consider.

Take, for instance, if we could read each other minds. That that electrostatic cloud of conscious projection and intention were evident as clear signal and not just the occasional stray insight and shots of adrenalin. Quite simply we would be overwhelmed if we were consciously aware of all our own subconscious impulses and peripheral observations and not just the reductionist executive stream of consciousness, which only clarifies itself as the most minimal of saved observations.

Just look around at the impending disorder of the world, as our carefully constructed narratives play out to extremist absurdities. Meanwhile that middle brain would like nothing more than to climb back into its most ordered structures.

Unfortunately these escapist fantasies are what we are able to grant ourselves. Knowledge is to order our world and it doesn't always cooperate. The problem is then compounded when we then shy away from that reality and insist our versions and visions should prevail. Then it is not only other's opinions which don't matter and are to be swept away, but others lives.

Appreciate that you have a context, even if it is not always to your liking

Regards,

John M

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