Remember when you’d be up late cruising through cable channels and you came across the dirty movies on Cinemax? Yeah, me either, but I know a guy. Fifty Shades Darker is essentially one of those movies, except it’s playing in your local theater. So basically, you’re having a group experience watching soft-core porn, but with famous people. I’ll get this out of the way, Fifty Shades Darker‘s target audience is going to eat this up so if you’re fan of this franchise this review isn’t for you. As someone who likes to review films, I’m not above genuine entertainment even if the movie as a whole is bad. Like the latest xXx installment which is over the top and ridiculous, but entertaining. So if you’re looking for entertainment, go ahead and skip this one. You were probably going to anyway.
Among the many problems this film has, it has one major force dragging it down; it isn’t interesting, and neither are its characters. The latest installment of this series is directed by James Foley who is a semi competent director. Foley directed the fantastic Glengarry Glen Ross. However, it’s almost as if Foley was just shooting the scenes and going through the motions. Part of the problem with the first movie was its horrendous dialogue and dull acting by the two lifeless leads. Foley doesn’t offer a new take on the characters who on the surface do have interesting personality traits to explore. Instead, he and screenwriter Niall Leonard choose to leave them one dimensional.
Fifty Shades Darker begins not to much longer after the conclusion of the first film. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is working a new job with a publishing company when the ever mysterious Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) reappears in her life. In a movie with a storyline where there is drama to found, the film never explores the deeper meaning of the shadowy past of Mr. Grey. From the get go when he is introduced back into Anastasia’s life, they have a conflict, quickly resolve it and promptly proceed to the bedroom. There is a sappy, romantic apology and any conflict is buried with in a matter of minutes throughout the course of this film. It leaves much to be desired in terms of plot, because there virtually isn’t one. In the end, we are watching a couple trying to have a normal relationship. The problem with that? It ultimately doesn’t make a compelling film.
Perhaps where the problem lies is within the source material and not so much with Leonard who has also penned the follow up to this one. Anyone who did not read the books or have interest in the subject matter, are given no reason to care about these characters. I can’t really blame someone like Dakota Johnson who has been good in other films. She is given absolutely no interesting character traits. Neither is Dornan, but he is wooden and doesn’t quite know how to deliver his lines in a way that doesn’t come off as dopey. But acting aside, there is a lot of depth to be explored with these characters, but the filmmakers take the simple road. Anastasia wants a “vanilla” relationship with Christian, and that is basically what you get.
Fifty Shades Darker doesn’t live up to its name even. If anything, it is lighter in tone than its predecessor. The film doesn’t answer any questions worth answering nor does it delve deeper into a darker atmosphere. As it unwinds it becomes more and more clear we are actually watching a soap opera. There are scenes of unintentional hilarity in parts of the film which makes not a complete waste of two hours. Fifty Shades Darker is absurdly melodramatic and overly serious. But I digress, this movie will make a bunch of money at the box office, and come this time next year, I’ll be in the same spot as I am now. However at least then it will be over.