…states the tagline. The flock of females across the globe will arrive in droves whilst husbands are forced alongside. The Lego Batman Movie is looking far superior for the male population this week as Valentine’s Day is around the corner and the sequel adaptation of E.L. James’ phenomenally popular BDSM romance novels Fifty Shades hits cinemas. With a change in director and written by the author’s husband, was there any chance that the sequel would better an inferior opening chapter of this franchise?
Fifty Shades Darker takes place what i can only imagine a few weeks after the abrupt close of the first. Ana has started a job within a publishing firm as an assistant to a ridiculously good-looking male boss (who quickly, somehow, thrives on the need and want of Ana’s attention — really?) whilst Christian pines after the girl he lost.
Quickly, and i mean quickly, all is forgiven. Christian’s previous subs come to light as he attempts to change his ways (for those who haven’t seen the original, Christian gets off on pleasure and pain in the whipping and chained variety and took it one step too far) for the girl he wishes to keep.
Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction was placid and vastly uninspired when it came to dishing out the literal filth which E.L. James promised — and we won’t dance around the subject, this is what these audiences are flocking to see. Sadly, the sequel doesn’t better this prospect. Whilst on the surface is glitters with promise, it lacks a depth that ultimately aims to have you clenching your thighs at the promise of your own Christian Grey.
Niall Leonard’s script fuses crass and exploitive chit-chat with the hopefulness of actually addressing this BDSM sub-plot with accuracy. This needs to be laced with enough bite and adulterated charisma as humanely possible, but instead Ana enters the Red Room and all she can address is “Does the maid dust in here?”. Leonard’s manipulative script teases correctly, then comes down to the dirty business and either cuts away and completely ignores all of Christian’s inner desires to spank and punish. A quick arse shot and a slap is what here is addressed as BDSM, and while I’m not a connoisseur myself, even I understand that this is a backhanded compliment to shed light on a taboo which clearly has been attacked by Hollywood in the most offensive manner.
Johnson and Dornan appear to fuse in the lighter segments — there’s less lip-biting in this, thankfully. But the chemistry fizzles and all we’re left with is a whimpering ingenue and a wooden male lead who are vomiting the most puerile and shamelessly simple-minded phrases like “kinky fuckery” amongst a field of other ridiculous conversions which attempt to pass off as flirtatious chat. It then submerges into something spawned straight out of a Dynasty episode as Kim Basinger’s jealous Mrs. Robinson swans into focus and primarily is left to act as a punching bag from a lacklustre and pitifully angry Johnson.
Fifty Shades Darker is absolutely more entertaining than its predecessor, but only because there’s far more unintentional humour than film had ever seen in 2016. But ultimately it echoes what it’s based off of, an uninspiring collection of romantic novels which base heavily in a fantasy-like nature where nothing at all featured could ever, ever happen in real life and if that’s what gets you off then so be it. The story distracts as heavily as it can by dropping in a sex scene every fifteen-to-twenty minutes to hide the fact that there is no narrative whatsoever and the only saving grace are two leads whose moments of genuine joy are interspersed too infrequently to stretch a two-hour runtime.
Painful at times, hilarious in others. Fifty Shades Darker is a continuation of E.L. James sub-par romance novels, given an adaptation that, whilst looks pretty, is as uninspiring and bland as Jamie Dornan’s passionless mug.
Dir: James Foley
Scr: Niall Leonard
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Marcia Gay Harden, Kim Basinger, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes
Prd: E.L. James, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Marcus Viscidi
Music: Danny Elfman
DOP: John Schwartzman
Runtime: 118 minutes