On a warm autumn day in 2002, I daydreamed about a girl who had an accident that fully unleashed her mind. From then on, the scenes of how she would live played out in my imagination… and eventually give rise to the raw origins of my novel: Little Miss Lucifer.
I wasn’t worried though, and am not even threatened by Lucy. The story is way different. But even so, after spoiling it by reading the plot on Wikipedia, I still wanted to see what director Luc Besson could do with such a character. Here’s what I think of Lucy:
1) First, the name of the film and Johansson’s character is — you guessed it — Lucy. But who was the person who popularized that name? Who is the person who every “Lucy” afterwards was named after? Well, like most names we have in English today, those names belonged to saints who launched them into popular use. Think of Mary, Andrew, John, and yep… Lucy.
Saint Lucy was a young Christian woman who was persecuted for her love of Jesus. One of the ways she was tortured before being martyred was that her eyes were ripped out from her face. Many icons of St. Lucy depict her holding her two eyeballs in a dish.
But here’s how this relates to the movie: In Latin, the “lu” in the name Lucy refers to “light,” as in “luminous” or “luster”. When St. Lucy was blinded and murdered, she no longer saw created light (the light of the sun, stars, firelies and lightning), but instead became able to see the true Light of the World: Jesus Christ, the God who created all other lights. (Btw, notice all the emphasis and focus on Lucy’s eyes in the film and its ads.)
In the film, Lucy also symbolizes this as someone who becomes able to see more than light. She can see, and sense, the world we know as mystery. She even explains that time is the standard of defining reality, not us humans and our standards, but time. Now, I don’t agree with this because even time itself can be destroyed (since spacetime is only a product of the Big Bang), and if time itself can be destroyed, then what? Instead, what I take from this is that we do not define what is real or true. Instead, the film tells us that reality and truth exist apart from what we think of it. In short, the film busts relativism (the idea that something is true only as long as we want it to be, and that we can all have our own truths about reality) into smithereens!
2) Lucy in the movie also amasses huge amounts of information. She and others believe that knowledge is the purpose of life. She gains the ability to time-travel, manipulate matter, teleport, and even control other people. There’s criticism out there that the film’s use of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam suggests that Lucy has become god. However, if this is the film’s intention, then it cancels itself out in a few ways. First, Lucy knows a lot about how and what things are, but she does not know why: as in why is there such a thing as the universe as opposed to nothing? Why is there life? Why does she exist? Why does she love her parents (their conversation was one of my favorites in the film)? Why is there love anyway? And what is love? Why are some things beautiful and others not? Why does beauty exist?Why does anything exist at all? Second, Lucy can do a lot, but she couldn’t even save her own body from decay. Unless there’s a sequel about her resurrection, she’s a pretty flimsy god. Third, she’s an even flimsier god since she needs a cell phone to tell her friend that she is everywhere (and more on this below). Fourth, is it really enough to know something, to know all things? If you had all the information in creation, but nobody ever existed to share it with, would that be enough for you? If you knew about love and what it was, but you were never loved by anyone, and had no one to love in return… would that be enough for you? What I’m saying is that knowledge is not the purpose of life… love is! And this reminds me of a quote from beloved Pope Benedict XVI: “For those who love, you can never have enough information” — meaning that a lover never tires of discovering and rediscovering the beloved.
3) So, what’s up with Lucy needing to use the cell phone? In fact, what’s up with all these latest mind-movies (like Transcendence and Her) showing that untethered consciousness still needs a way to be physically expressive? Could it be because God (the real One) created us humans that way? That we need the physical to make ourselves known? That “the body alone, and only the body, can make visible the invisible” (I stole that quote from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body). Think about it: if I had an idea, how would anyone know about it? Unless… I used my brain, nerves, eyes, hands, skin, bones, muscles, etc. to pick up a pen and write it out. Or used my vocal cords, lungs, breath, tongue and teeth to speak it out? We need our bodies, because we are our body. It’s not just something we have, it is us.
4) And back to the beauty question from #2 above: beauty is one of those realities that knowledge and information alone cannot explain. I mean, how do we recognize beauty? Why does it exist? Why is it important to us? And don’t just think of visual beauty, but think of music, flavor, fragrance, and texture! (Yes, this movie did make me think of this, after all… if knowledge was everything, why bother making it all pretty with Scarlett and cinematography?)
5) Scarlett made me notice another thing: when her roommate was gushing about her night with a man, Lucy was totally disinterested. Lucy not only didn’t care, but even mocked it. This reminds me of why some men and women in the Catholic faith choose a life of celibate chastity. I’m thinking of priests and religious sisters (aka: nuns). That’s right! Scarlett Johansson’s character just exemplified celibacy. Here’s how: priests and nuns put the ordinary and natural desire for married sexual intimacy aside and instead choose the extraordinary and supernatural desire for intimacy with God. By living celibate lives, they’re witnessing that we were not meant merely for marriage with another person, but were meant for marriage with the Person, with God who is more real than any creature, more beautiful than beauty (since He created beauty). In the movie, Lucy knows reality more than the average person and sees that sexual intimacy is not enough for her — that compared to intimacy with supreme reality, sexual intimacy is kind of a joke. [NOTE: Catholic teaching does not say that sexual intimacy is a joke (married intimacy is very holy), only that any other intimacy is incomparable to intimacy with God.] (Click here to see what I mean (these sisters went on Oprah to share their story!) (And click here for how Professor-X from X-Men also exemplifies celibate chastity.)
6) The movie starts and ends with this voiceover: “We were given life over a billion years ago…” Notice that it says we were given life. Not that life popped out of nowhere, or that we gave life to ourselves, but that it was given to us. In that case… who gave it to us? Being given something implies there’s a giver…
7) Lastly, there’s a sort of throwaway line that Lucy says when the lead police officer warns her about people dying. She says point blank: “No one ever really dies.” Now, this is a claim Christians should know very well, since we profess to believe in the Resurrection and the Life, that we will all live forever, and not just spiritually, but bodily too! So, not sure what to make of this line from Lucy since nothing else follows it up and fleshes it out.
8) All in all, I enjoyed Lucy. It made me ask a lot of philosophical questions and hinted at theological truths. It was fun, although corny at times. I’m just glad it wasn’t a waste of 90 minutes and a free admission, and I’m even more glad Luc Besson didn’t steal my idea about a girl who goes 100%. Yet, the greatest disappointment was that Besson himself didn’t go 100% on this film.