So I watched Fifty Shades Darker…
Unlike the overwhelming majority of the world, I actually enjoyed the first Fifty Shades film. I thought it was smart, slick and sexy. A friend advised – before I saw it – that I should go into it expecting a romance movie and not a piece of erotica. So while plenty of people were left unsatisfied at the film’s lack of explicit sex, I was left smiling because I’d been treated to an entertaining love story. Unfortunately, as is often the case with sequels, this film was completely devoid of everything I loved in the original.
Okay, basic plot: After their break-up, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) finds himself lost and desperately wishes to re-connect with his ex, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). After their last encounter, Anastasia is apprehensive but reluctantly agrees when Christian promises that he’s changed and no longer requires the perverse sexual satisfaction that scared her off. The two rekindle their love but Anastasia fears that Christian’s past isn’t as far behind him as he’d like her to believe when he meets Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) – Christian’s former dominant. Elena warns Anastasia that she can never fully satisfy Christian and that their relationship is doomed.
One of my favourite features of the last film was the unhappy ending it had. Christian reveals the true depths of his sexual depravity and Ana finds it too much to handle and leaves. Now you would think that with the gravity and intensity of the last film’s ending, there would need to be a fair amount of resolution required for the two lovers to reconcile and begin a relationship again. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. Within this film’s first five minutes, everything from the previous film is forgotten and the two move on like nothing ever happened. Christian barely has to woo let alone apologise fpr Anastasia to agree to take him back.
Now I know what you’re gonna say, people in love do stupid things and it often takes very little for them to be persuaded to give their ex another chance. This would be true if at any part of the movie you believed that the two leads were in love. From the very first kiss the two shared I could tell something was off. The kiss felt cumbersome and lacked sensuality. This is an ever-present theme throughout the film. The two leads feel like cousins being forced into an arranged marriage rather than ravenous lovers eager to devour each other. This film has a lot more sex in it – which might please many viewers/cause many viewers to please themselves – but the lack of intimacy and chemistry between the two leads makes the sex fall flat.
A friend sent me a picture from a cinema somewhere in the world that had shown this film and, in the picture, there was a cucumber that you could tell had been used for other purposes than making a salad. That same friend and I went to watch this movie and after watching it, she turned to me and despondently said, “what part of that movie would make you want to use a cucumber?”. Watching this film was akin to watching a poorly made amateur porno – there’s a bit too much talking and the sex that is present makes you want to put more clothes on your body rather than take any off.
This film has a new director and screenwriter and since they’re the only significant elements that changed from the previous film, I feel the majority of the hate I feel towards this film has to placed on their shoulders. A friend who read all three books told me that they were exceptionally poorly written and that EL James is a horrible author. Niall Leonard wrote this film’s ‘script’ and I feel like he was attempting to reach the same level of banality in his writing that EL James did with her books. In fact, EL James is actually his wife…it’s all beginning to make sense now. James Foley hardly does any better in the director’s chair. The film feels sloppily put together and there are multiple times when – after seeing a scene, I wondered why it was included in the film at all.
I also have to call out this film’s score. Now, Danny Elfman is a legend his work with Tim Burton, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was inspired; but he completely misses the mark in this film. I highly enjoyed the soundtrack from the previous film, I still listen to it on occasion because it’s filled with such rich music; but the songs chosen in this film feel poorly chosen. The songs lack congruity with the scenes where they’re placed and maybe this is due to the director’s choices rather than Elfman’s composition. Either way, the soundtrack in this film is atrocious.
Let’s see if I’ve covered everything I didn’t enjoy about this film: the script is poor, direction is horrible, acting is painful to watch and the music isn’t enjoyable. I think that’s everything…oh no wait, there’s more. In the beginning of this review I commented on how the events of the last film are rather casually swept away. This is a theme present throughout the entire movie. Any time something of significance occurs in the film, it’s resolved immediately with hardly any tension. This means that nothing feels at stake and you’re never forced to care about anything because it’s fixed before you have time to even begin worrying about it.
Overall, Fifty Shades Darker is a terrible movie. Its failure stems from the screenwriter’s pen, flows through the director’s vision and infects the actors’ performances. There’s only about twenty minutes in this film that I found tolerable and actually enjoyed but other than that, I wouldn’t go watch this movie again if you paid me. If you’re looking for romance, there’s far better; if it’s erotica you seek, there’s definitely better pornography out there than this film. 3/10