Lucy: A Theological Film Critique
My wife and I went out to the cinema the other night. As opposed to the chocolate bar rom-coms which some ladies force their men to endure, my wife usually has good taste in films. She suggested we see “Lucy” an intelligent action-thriller starring Scarlett Johansson. (My wife is cool like that.)
The acting was fantastic on the part of Johansson who performs a captivatingly realistic panic scene in the first few minutes. The stunts were well done and the special effects were fresh. One left feeling they had seen something new.
Theologically a lot could be unpacked. The theme is the increased human capacity to interact with space and time by cultivating cerebral capacity. As Johansson’s mind becomes more fully awake she becomes more powerful. As a Christian this stirs our imagination to consider what it will be like when “Christ changes our humble bodies to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3). What will life be like after the Resurrection of the dead? What will our minds and bodies be able to do that they cannot now do? Does our human obsession with superheroes and mythological gods reflect the fact that our current mode of existence is not what we are ultimately meant for?
Though I was intrigued by Lucy’s (Johansson’s) interaction with space and time, there were other elements which I felt were more Buddhist Zen than Christian Glorification. As she was growing in power and abilities, she was losing a part of her humanity. She no longer experienced desire, fear or love. There was something slightly robotic about her and she seemed to be losing emotional capacity. By contrast in Christian understanding we will one day live in glory with Jesus where our laughs will be richer our love deeper and wider and our emotions will be more alive and healthier than ever before. In short, we will be more human, not less.
Perhaps the main theme of the movie is that our purpose in life is to pass on information for those who follow after. According to the film this is life’s purpose be it of a single cell or a human genius. As Christians we would see the passing on of key information (discipleship) as part of our “mission” more than our ultimate purpose. During our lives we are called to tell our generation as well as the coming generation who God is and what he's up to. Our ultimate "purpose" for all eternity is glorify God by enjoying him forever.
A result of this divergent view of humanity’s purpose is a different view of our ultimate problem. In the film humanity’s problem is ignorance: we simply need more information and we’ll be okay. According to the gospel our problem is ultimately sin. More information can be helpful, but it can also make us more efficient at doing evil. We need more than knowledge, we need salvation: deliverance from sin through being born again into a new life. That’s why Jesus isn’t just our teacher. He is our saviour. He did more than tell good stories, he died in our place, for our sins and rose again to bring us to life.
Good film, 4 stars.