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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Luc Besson on Superhuman Abilities

What superpowers
would you like to possess?

Recently, my wife and I went out to see "Lucy." This movie was written, directed and produced by Luc Besson, a powerhouse of French cinema. In his story, Lucy is a young woman who is kidnapped by drug traffickers in Taiwan. They surgically implant a pouch of an experimental drug into her abdomen, and threaten to kill her family unless she delivers it to their organization overseas. But before she gets on a plane, the pouch breaks, and the drug flows into her system.

This drug, based on a chemical secreted by women during pregnancy, finds in Lucy the perfect host. Her tissues and organs absorb the drug, but the most important effect takes place in her brain. She begins to perceive things that most of us could only hope to see and understand. She can look at her roommate, and tell that she is suffering an undiagnosed health malady, for example. More importantly, the drug transforms her mental powers so that she can absorb information at an astounding rate, and manipulate what she sees. She can peer into people's minds, and put them to sleep. She can control a gunman's muscles, so that he doesn't shoot her. She can get into a car, and judge other drivers' patterns to analyze the quickest way across the packed streets of Paris during rush hour. She can read others' thoughts and see their memories. She can move and alter inanimate objects. She can perceive information streaming through the air, sent by electronic devices like cell phones, and listen in on them. 

In short, she has become a god. 

As we all know, no gift comes without a price. In Lucy's case, her body is operating far beyond a sustainable level, and she recognizes that she only has a day or so of life left. So she makes it her goal to pass on all that she has learned to scientists, in the hope that they can utilize that knowledge to enhance mankind's understanding of how the Human body and brain function, and perhaps increase our capabilities in a sustainable manner. She pours all her energies into building a computer that can compile that information, and delivering it to scientists in the time remaining to her, all the while eluding the drug lords intent on ending her life.

"Lucy" reminded me of other stories as I watched it. Lucy's increased telepathic abilities reminded me of Robert Silverberg's novel Dying Inside, in which a man is born with the ability to read other people's minds, but he pays a heavy price for this extraordinary ability. It reminded me of Roger Zelazny's novels Changling and Madwand, in which a magician perceives links between people and their surroundings, and manipulate them by pulling on these invisible strands of reality that connect them with the rest of their world. It reminded me of Altered States, a novel and film written by Paddy Chayefski, in which a man experiments with sensory deprivation inside a water tank, and the drugs he uses allow him to perceive the whole of Human history and existence. Needless to say, the movie underscored Luc Besson's tremendous talent, and made me want to see more of his movies. Perhaps not all seventy-six of them, but a few. 

Maybe I'll start by watching an old favorite, and the only other one of his I've seen thus far. You might have seen it too. It was a wonderful Sci-fi Space Opera called "The Fifth Element." You know: "Boom. Bada Boom. Big Bada Boom." Luc Besson met his future wife on that one, his beautiful star Milla Jovovich. Well, at least one of his wives...

It could be great to possess superpowers like telepathy and telekinesis. But if I had a choice, my desired superpower would have to be the mental focus to complete the tasks I start, in a reasonable amount of time, without constantly getting distracted, and then getting down on myself for not sticking to my targets and goals. What? That's not a superhuman ability, you say? Then why do I find it such a difficult skill to master?

Dragon Dave

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