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John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Morgan Freeman and Scarlett Johansson star in a scene from the movie "Lucy."
No one can accuse French writer-director Luc Besson of having made a dull film in "Lucy" (Universal).

But giddy sci-fi notions pepper his bizarre action thriller, while harsh events unfold amid its gritty setting, making this breakneck outing a suitable ride only for those grown-ups with seasoned judgment.

It's a safe bet that nothing good is going to happen to the streetwise but impressionable waif of the title once Lucy's boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbaek), tricks her into delivering a briefcase with unknown contents to a recipient he's clearly afraid to face. So it's no surprise when the case turns out to hold a large quantity of a cutting-edge narcotic belonging to brutal Taiwanese crime lord Mr. Jang (Choi Min Sik).

Though the initial transfer of the drug is harrowing enough, worse is to follow: Beaten unconscious, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) wakes up to find that a portion of the crystalline substance has been implanted in her, and that she's being compelled to serve as one of Jang's beleaguered crew of unwilling mules.

Held in captivity pending her departure, Lucy is accidentally exposed to the influence of her cargo when one of Jang's henchmen, whose advances she's repelled, responds by putting her through another drubbing. The startling result is that, rather than merely getting high or even overdosing, Lucy rapidly begins using more and more of her brain's untapped capacity for thought.

This process of intellectual expansion not only enables Lucy to escape, but keeps her several steps ahead of the pursuing bad guys, led by Jang's underling Jii (Nicolas Phongpheth). While they're intent on recovering their product -- and punishing the runaway -- Lucy is determined to turn her unique experience to the benefit of science.

To that end, she uses the Internet to locate Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), one of the world's leading experts on the subject of evolutionary consciousness. Scenes of Norman lecturing on his chosen topic have earlier been interspersed, somewhat mysteriously, with the sequences recounting Lucy's mounting misfortunes.

Religiously dedicated moviegoers will appreciate the brief but fervent prayer Lucy offers up once she realizes that she's fallen into Jang's clutches. They'll be more ambivalent about her encounter with her namesake, the earliest ancestor of the human race from whom, scientists surmise, all subsequent homo sapiens descend.

During their meeting, the two reach out, finger to finger, in a gesture strongly reminiscent of the iconic one shared between God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Is this a Darwinian redrawing of Michelangelo's familiar image of creation? Or are we to infer that Lucy's ascent to some version of omniscience makes her a stand-in for God?

Plot details also call for careful sifting. As Lucy approaches intellectual totality, she gains the ability to control the material world. From a Christian perspective, of course, that's an off-kilter portrayal of the relationship between thought and matter. Lucy's ever-deepening insights into the nature of things, moreover, have more to do with a sort of low-rent Zen Buddhism than with revealed religion.

These philosophical factors, together with a steady stream of nasty mayhem, suggest a wary stance toward "Lucy" would be best, even for adults.

The film contains themes requiring mature discernment, considerable gory violence, drug use, a scene of sexual aggression and about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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