Review: ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is Mainly Unsatisfying

Scott Carney ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Fifty Shades Darker…. What is there really to say? Everyone going to see this movie is either a fan of the steamy sex scenes from El James’s Twilight fan fiction turned bestselling novels or the hokey dialogue that is good for a laugh. The major problem of the first film was that it didn’t quite go all the way with either factors leaving a film that, instead of being overly sexy or humorous, was just plain boring. Darker, while a slight improvement over its precursor, still suffers from the same faults.

This film picks up where the first film left off with billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) attempting to woo back his lover, professional lip biter Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). Despite Christian’s creepy possessive behavior towards her, Anastasia chooses to return to him because, well, he’s hot. From there, the two encounter various obstacles to their relationship, including Anastasia’s lustful boss (Eric Johnson), a former lover of Grey’s now stalking Anastasia (Bella Heathcoate), and Grey himself who struggles to move past his abusive sexual desires and have a normal, loving relationship. Oh, and the plot also involves a helicopter crash, a birthday party, and Christian’s mother’s friend (Kim Basinger) who molested him as a teen and also wants to sabotage him and Anastasia’s relationship. All of these various plots leave the film feeling overstuffed. The conclusions of the majority of these storylines don’t really matter to the arcs of the two leads. Still, it is hard to criticize the film for these plots since it seems they are all lifted from the source material. The filmmakers probably did the best they could with what they had. However, this series did not become a phenomenon based on its plotting, so how are the scenes that drew people to this series in the first place? Like the first film, the sex scenes are kinky but also relatively tame considering the book series prided itself on its graphic sexual content. Thus, the whole idea of a film adaptation seems a little counterproductive since it’s toning down what made it so popular.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Darker. Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

With that being said, this film does have a few strong points, or at the very least points that make it better than its predecessor. For starters, those who want to watch the film ironically should find much more unintentional comedy in this one, whether it be the plot points that come out of left field or the single repetitive traits of the characters. For example, Marcia Gay Harden plays Christian’s mother who does nothing but praise what a wonderful person Anastasia is in every scene, regardless of the context. However, the film also surprisingly has some moments that are genuinely funny, mainly because this one is more self-aware and does not take itself quite as seriously as the first one did, a smart decision by director James Foley. The acting has also improved. Dornan, stiff as can be in the first film, seems more comfortable as Christian Grey this time around and gives a much more believable performance. Johnson also makes the most of her role, at times providing some genuine human emotion to a character that is mostly written as a mindless drone lacking common sense. Christian Grey’s past and damaged psyche, although not developed as fully as they could be, also provides much more interesting material than anything that has previously been covered in this series.

Still, at the end of the day, this is a Fifty Shades movie and even the stuff that’s good is mainly just in comparison with the first film. Definitely an improvement, but I suspect the majority of audience members will leave feeling unsatisfied.

Overall Grade: C-

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