There is a mental checklist you need to do when preparing for watching films like Fifty Shades Darker and its kin. Appropriately lowered expectations, liberal amounts of awkwardness for sex scenes and an ability to laugh at cringe worthy dialogue. Still, even with the appropriate mental fortitude, you might struggle with it. It’s a sequel that suffers from middle act syndrome and while there seems to be a little more self-awareness there’s also a lot of problematic baggage from the previous films. Find out more in our review.
At the end of the previous film Christian Grey, mysterious billionaire, took it too far with his romantic interest Anastasia forcing her to leave. Repentant Christian offers to open himself up to her and willing to accept a more straightforward relationship. While this has its challenges, it is people from Christian’s past that seek to not only jeopardise their relationship but also their safety.
It’s tough to pick exactly what audiences of Fifty Shades Darker are coming back to see. If it’s the love story between Christian and Ana that this movie goes deeper as they genuinely begin to delve into love a bit more than the sex. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dorman embody these characters as best they can yet there are hints that they are here more for the paycheque and not the opportunity. Their chemistry a little more lacking than in the previous film which I felt was one of the more compelling elements of the previous film.
Yet despite that their dive into the trauma of Christian’s past is relatively effective. I mean relative for Fifty Shade Darker in that involves lipstick and safe zones.
Anastasia remains a boring character, she has no secrets, no past and little in the way of development. AS stories go she has no arc and perhaps her ability to be a cipher so Christian can begin his healing process.
There is clearly some forward progression in the story and an attempt is made to move away from a simple (if not kinky) romance film and more into thriller territory. The looming triple threats of one of Christian’s submissive, his original lover and a jealous boss of Anastasia all lead to a potential mess and delightful thriller in the next film. Yet this feels like a middle act of a story simply moving chess pieces for a final act.
The script for the proceedings seems even more self-aware than the first knowing that you might laugh at it, for its painful awkwardness. An example of such is gruff encounters between love interests or vanilla ice-cream as relationship metaphors. There seems to be a longer pause between some of these beats either for you to dwell on their meaningfulness or to laugh at the cringe factor. Either way, you get what you get!
It’s one of those things that should be obvious but a lot of talented people work on Fifty Shades Darker. A lot of those seem to be on the technical side. Beautifully shot and lit, it makes Seattle seem both moody and beautiful. It also has a great song from Taylor Swift and Zayn.
It seems like an obvious thing to say but when you do a sequel there should be something bigger filled with more spectacle to bring an audience back. In the case of Fifty Shades Darker, you would, therefore, conclude the drawcard of sex and the world of BDSM to be more intriguing than before. Yet as a movie franchise, Fifty Shades was already suffering from a bit of fatigue when it came to eroticism. That downward spiral seems to continue here. It seems to be a lot let serious than in the previous incarnation but for something that takes up a considerable amount of time, it is a little dull.
There is probably a certain moral ambiguity that I have for Fifty Shades Darker but it’s only in part because of its explicit nature. There is something that is stupidly uncomfortable about the abusive tendency of Christian Grey. He demands to own everything Ana touches, control her action not simply in the bedroom but everywhere else. I know one of the main points of the story is that love changes Christian but there is a whole lot of out of line behaviour to put up with to get there and it sends a very wrong message to any susceptible mind. It’s was also a problem with the first movie.
Fifty Shades Darker Film Review Cheat Sheet
Fifty Shades Darker is a better bad movie than its predecessor. Suffering from the pitfall of most middle parts of a trilogy have, little happens other than shuffling the pieces around for the final act. Painful dialogues, weird condoning of abusive relationships and a lack of new territory when it comes to the main event are only marginally improved by some witty one-liners that proves that there is a grain of self-awareness for the film’s creators. Best avoided but not as painful as it could beif you must see it!
+ A self-aware sense of humour.
+ Technical aspects impress
+ Moves away from romance
-Middle act problems
-Really awkward dialogues
-The things that should be better are still boring.
-Abusive elements are almost entirely overlooked.