The Scarlett Johansson thriller out last week is “the dumbest movie ever made about brain capacity,” writes The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr, a movie with “no brain,” writes Grantland’s Wesley Morris, that leaves you feeling “shorn of grey matter,” writes Time Out’s Keith Uhlich. A Universal Pictures release, the Europacorp film has earned $80 million in the U.S. in two weekends despite mixed reviews.
Though almost scared away, I finally saw the movie last night and was shocked at how wrong the haters were.
Yes, the premise about humans only using 10% of their brains is false, as is the idea that activating greater portions of the brain would unlock super-intelligence and super-powers approaching omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Yes, it is not science, but it is good science fiction, a fun exploration of an alternate reality that makes you think about the one we live in.
What you get in the movie is in effect the best TED talk ever except that it isn’t real: Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) giving a provocative and charismatic lecture on mankind’s place and potential in the universe, accompanied by a great slideshow. His lecture is juxtaposed with the thrilling story of Lucy (Johansson) getting kidnapped by Korean gangsters and exposed to a super drug that unlocks her own full potential, eventually bringing her to Paris to meet Norman. By the second half of the movie, Lucy leads Norman in an even more advanced discourse on the universe, which, too, is juxtaposed with dazzling action.
In short, the movie is intellectually stimulating in a way that most actions movies are not, the action is great, and Johansson is utterly captivating.
Maybe the movie is being criticised as dumb because it’s about being smart, as David Sims observed at The Wire.
Or maybe Americans just don’t get foreign films, and the French director’s movie does have alien touches starting with its discussion of high philosophy, also including the playful insertions mid-scene of clips of analogous moments from the animal kingdom; also the movie has some subtitles.
Or maybe people just don’t get science fiction. They may get “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” — simple movies that take place in space — but they don’t appreciate movies that make you think. Indeed, that most people don’t get science fiction is a conclusion I drew after disagreeing with bad reviews for “In Time,” “Repo Men,” “Daybreakers,” and more.
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