Have you ever gone into a movie, hoping against all odds that it’d be a great movie, and you get completely and pleasantly surprised?
Well that didn’t happen with 50 Shades Darker.
I should preface this by saying that I never saw the first film, nor did I read the books that the films are based on. I did, however, manage to sit through the entire Twilight series, much to my chagrin. And given that the “50 Shades” books were originally Twilight fan erotica, I wasn’t exactly optimistic I’d be seeing a cinematic classic.
*NOTE* – There are a lot of examples throughout the movie that I wanted to use to support my points, but I would risk creating tremendous overall spoilers, so I will attempt to refrain from doing so. There may be some minor spoilers, but they should be inconsequential to the overall plot.
Following the events of the first movie, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), the antagonist whose name sounds like it was ripped from an adult film library, has ended her relationship with Edward Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), the most eligible bachelor in town – whose family happens to be incredibly wealthy (think Thomas Crown Affair wealthy). Grey obviously cannot get over the loss of Ana, and promises to do whatever she wants in order to win her back.
Meanwhile, Ana has found a job at SIP (a publishing company) working for the devilishly handsome Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) – who also finds himself irresistibly attracted to her. Grey then spends the rest of the movie trying to convince Ana that he will give up as much of his old fetishes, because despite his long-standing desires, he needs her more. No, really, he tells her that. And… that’s basically the whole movie conflict.
Christian: Yeah, but I can change for you.
Listen, I will admit that I’m not above mindless fun movies. I just raved about John Wick: Chapter 2, and that has an admittedly thin plot. The difference is, though, that JW2 is fun – and it never pretends to be anything more than what it actually is. If all that you want is a romance movie, that has a small amount of nudity and a shirtless Christian Grey – and can’t be bothered with trivial, inconsequential things like a plot – consider my grade a B and go see it.
I would, however, be remiss to write a review without pointing out the tremendous inherent flaws I found in the film – the biggest of which is the story itself. We literally saw the same generic story in Twilight: handsome, mysterious, wealthy bachelor falls for a pretty, but mostly average in all other aspects, girl; he promises to change for her, but in the end, she’s the one who ends up making most of the small sacrifices and changing for him, succumbing to his wishes.
I understand that relationships are all about compromise and, on occasion, sacrifice. Yet the main character pretty much spends the entire movie doing his will. Initially she tells him she wants to take things slow, and then sleeps with him that night.
Ana: I want you.
That’s some strong will there, Ana. This of course leads to intercourse, which you can tell is about to happen when they start playing the modern groovy music you hear whenever you walk into a hip sushi restaurant or a cool clothing store to buy expensive jeans. I know you can hear it now. “Nnn-st-nnn-st-nnn-st-nnn-st.”
At one point Christian tells Ana to go wait for him outside, telling her, “For once, do as you’re told.” Let’s just disregard the first hour and a half of the movie, which she spends doing exactly what she’s told. The movie spends its entire length seemingly contradicting itself. It tries to portray Ana as a strong woman, striving for equality and independence. Yet she never really seems to fully gain either. Maybe in the third movie. Oh, and let’s just gloss over the fact that Christian seems to have a wealth of psychological issues, in particular revolving around his birth mom. But it’s okay, touching some naughty bits should resolve them.
The acting is so-so, but I’m not sure if I can really fault either of the main actors – as they weren’t given a whole lot to work with in the first place. The dialogue is pretty subpar. I found myself cringing at some of the exchanges the characters had, because very few of their lines could be considered original. There are a couple of dei ex machina toward the end that try to be shocking, but at that point I just threw my hands up in despair.
If you’re going to this film hoping to see a plethora of nudity, you’re going to be disappointed; I tallied a total of five times where breasts are on screen. You do see Jamie’s butt a couple times, so I guess there’s that.
There’s a subplot involving Ana’s boss, as well as a couple characters from Christian’s past that pop up. While they add a little bit of intrigue to the movie, it’s not nearly enough to save it.
If you’ve read this far, you may think that I’m being a little too harsh on the movie. It’s not that I can’t enjoy a good romance film. It’s just that Fifty Shades Darker doesn’t even appear to try to set itself apart from the Twilight source material. The main characters are too similar, and the movie ends basically on the same plot point that one of the Twilight films does. Hell, the franchise is set in the same damn state. Overall, it’s difficult for me to take many positives away from a film that seems perfectly content to settle for mediocrity. I should note that my friend I took with me, Lauren, loved it. And based on the reactions of the other women leaving the theater as I gave my thoughts, she wasn’t alone. But this story’s been done before.
Fifty Shades Darker gets a D-.