by Cass Cannon
Dissatisfied by Hollywood’s enthusiastic efforts to make (appallingly) bad sequels, I’ve decided it is my extremely serious and important responsibility to seek out movies that, while on their surface seem like nothing more than distant cousins, are serially tangled. In a true debate of who came first, the Junior or the Twins, my goal is to unravel the cinema universe one awkward pairing at a time because, well, if the media has taught us anything the past few years, it’s that every movie could use a sequel or two. I read once that Jorge Louis Borges said that all people and ideas essentially come from one person and one idea—so hopefully if you make enough shitty movies, you’re bound to strike classic cinema gold again...and blockbuster hits will finally start to do something for me. So like some film nerd a little too indicouch to do much else, I'd like to imagine a world where Luc Besson’s Lucy serves as the honorary prequel to Spike Jonze’s Her. Buckle up, friends.
The two films follow the common building-to-disaster pace of a typical scifi jam, but what ends up working so well when they're imagined together is that the two disasters fit into so lovingly into one another as a sort of big spoon/little spoon situation. Her matures Lucy's wild, ornery plot lines and softens the blow of "life isn't important so why live it," suggesting, well sure, maybe life doesn't matter, but the connections you make during it are crucial. As close to Camus’ The Plague as a couple of Scarlett Johansson movies can get, when paired together, they end up somehow more comforting and manage to complete a deliciously existential conversation I don't think either one has on its own. The conversation moves from explosions and science to the impact simple day-to-day interactions have on us, perhaps suggesting that the latter is the more important experience to focus on.
In Lucy, Besson equates intelligence with emotional sterility, gently saying humans are tethered to a more basic existence because we are so motivated by our hearts, not our brains. And because form fits function, empathy and relatable character building go out the window, and instead we’re left with a robotic Johannson causing a lot of property damage because...knowledge? I guess? Honestly, when looked at on its own, I find Lucy to be grating and incapable of going beyond a sort of navel-gazing “look how smart we are” level of storytelling. There are moments when the film, trying to grasp at any humanity slipping rapidly through its fingers, adds romantic undertones for almost no reason. The highlight of which is, after a gunfight in a hospital, Scarjo randomly kisses the French police chief with whom she is working as, “A reminder.” Of? We aren’t sure. Maybe love? Maybe humanity? Maybe that kissing is awesome? Who’s to say. Like. This movie makes no sense.
The two movies are, in short, talking about the same thing, however they decide to slice it. Beyond tech, or love, or being human, they both say the same thing: knowledge is the key to transcending barriers. And that's cool. It's not the first time we've been told this story, especially in science fiction. When asked about the two films, Scarjo defines her roles as such: Lucy is a story of transcending the self and Her is a story of self-actualization. Lucy evolves away from her humanity, Samantha wasn’t human to begin with, but needed to be a part of humanity to realize that she should follow her own path of existence. See? Little spoon, big spoon. It works.