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Movie Review: Fifty Shades Darker
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Fifty Shades Darker review image

Fifty Shades Darker
Director: James Foley
Screenwriter: Niall Leonard
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rated R | 158 minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2017

When trying to figure out the rationale of the characters in Fifty Shades Darker, it’s best to remember that these people are based on less than stellar source material. Yes, the Fifty Shades film franchise continues on with Fifty Shades Darker, and despite the fact that it is supposed to be based on the best of the three popular books, the film fails to learn from its mistakes. Instead, it’s an unintentionally funny filler that goes nowhere fast and crashes and burns upon impact. Despite that rousing criticism, one can’t help but watch how much worse this can get. My full review below.

The sequel takes place a few weeks after the events of Fifty Shades of Grey with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Fanning) working at a new job. Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) clearly is stilling pining over her, sending her flowers and even buying up all the portraits of her at a photo gallery (more on this a little later). Soon she takes him back with the promise that Grey would not revert back to his old dominant self, renegotiating terms, so to speak. From there, it’s old lovers, scorned lovers, and third wheels. Yeah, the sequel makes no sense. So why was it so funny to watch?

For one thing, Darker is literally about nothing. That’s not figuratively speaking. It’s quite literal in a sense that there is no real plot. Nor is there any character development. There are no consequences – well maybe some red welts from all the spanking and some discomfort from the insertion of sex toys. Anything that resembles the non-existence of the aforementioned items is wiped clean due to the fact that nearly every piece of dialogue, every gesture, and even the climax is just pure lunacy.

Moving on to that dialogue, it appears that maybe some things have been learned from the first film, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an improvement. For one thing, these characters still speak in a way that people outside this world don’t. Meaning, no one carries a conversation like they do. It’s not every day you speak to your lover and say to them that Jane Austen set the expectations for relationships or say that you will join them for dinner because you are hungry. Even the term “kinky fuckery” is spouted out. I have yet to figure out what that means. It’s all very strange. Even for soap opera and trashy grocery store novel standards, it’s hard to believe that the average person would talk like these characters. What this does is turn the film into an unintentional comedy.

That carries over to the chemistry. For which, there is very little of, though a lot if you are looking at this as a comedy. But since it’s not, they have very little of it. Sure the sex scenes seem more passionate and intimate, but the dialogue between the two is just so bad it’s hard to believe that these two could actually sustain a healthy relationship. It’s only when the two gawk at each other’s bodies that their relationship is somewhat believable. Again, is that an everyday thing? Who does that? Still, if I had so say anything, their chemistry has slightly improved since we last saw them.

So in the realm of all things that are strange, Fifty Shades Darker is apparently a dimension where there are absolutely no consequences to one’s actions. Sure, a former flame Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote) who goes to great lengths – breaking and entering, threatening with a fully loaded gun, damage of property – may have returned to figure out why Christian chose Anna over her, but that really has no effect on these two. Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Anna’s boss, is apparently crazy about her and will do anything to separate her from Christian, but again, that has no effect. And this just keeps on going. All of this has me believing that these former flames will form a secret society of scorned lovers that will battle the two in Seattle against a giant blue beam firing into the sky that is accompanied by a giant circle of trash. Then there’s Elena Robinson (Kim Basinger), Grey’s business partner and a scorned lover who is bitter that he’s with Anna.

This only contributes to the lack of character development. Since there are no consequences, these characters cannot learn or change. So they go through the motions, like some lazy river but set in Seattle. Anna and Christian’s attempt to become better people is all moot thanks in part to the dialogue to a proceeding scene that features a room full of deep-colored lingerie, kinky sex toys, and chains. In fact, the only real thing that has changed is that the sex is in opposition to its title. It’s not darker. It’s tamer and a bit more passionate.

Director James Foley and screenwriter Niall Leonard don’t have a lot of material to work with considering it is based on a poorly written (albeit bestselling) book. Still, you have to give them some credit for carrying the torch. The sequel is apparently faithful to the book, at least that’s what my friend who I brought along tells me. And give credit to the cinematography and production design. Shots of satin and chains never looked sexier; no, I can’t believe I said that. And the dresses and suits are just as alluring. But the most interesting thing of all is the appearance of a Universal’s Chronicles of Riddick poster that just so happens to be in Christian’s room when he was a kid.

Of course, none of that is enough to overlook the glaring flaws of this sequel. But we can still laugh at its unintentional humor. Although, I don’t think that’s what Foley and Leonard were really going for. And it’s not over. Not by a long shot. That’s because there is a Fifty Shades Freed teaser during the mid-credits sequence that hints at what life is like for the “happy couple.”

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