Instead of chocolates and teddy bears, this Valentine’s Day was full of handcuffs and blindfolds as “Fifty Shades Darker” made its way to theaters. Based on E.L. James’s best- selling novel series, “Darker” is the much anticipated sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which was released in 2015.
Directed by James Foley, this movie finds college graduate Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) struggling to form a relationship with CEO billionaire and sadist Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) as she does not want to be a submissive anymore. The movie explores much of Grey’s past as he begins to open up to Anastasia. This second installment shows a softer side and more personal side of Grey to contrast his sadistic tendencies in the bedroom.
In comparison to the last movie, “Darker” is much more romantic and shies away from heavy BDSM scenes. While there are plenty of erotic scenes featuring some light bondage, there is only one scene in Grey’s infamous “Red Room” that was perfectly sound tracked to singer-songwriter Halsey’s sultry voice in her single “Not Afraid Anymore.”
Despite this shift towards romance, the performance of the protagonists felt very stiff and lacked the passion the roles required. Dornan and Johnson have long been said to be lacking in on-screen chemistry, with some pointing to their strained relationship off-screen. While the first movie was bearable, the lack of chemistry was very apparent in “Darker.”
While Anastasia’s charming awkwardness was the comedic relief of the first movie, in this movie her wit was limited and her character was boring. Dornan’s uninspired portrayal of the mercurial Mr. Grey was similar to the last movie. However, he did have some moments where his acting ability shone through, especially in scenes where he was angry and forced to yell. However, in the scenes that required affection and loving, he seemed stiff.
The plot of the movie is consistent with the book with both conflict between Anastasia and Christian trying to make their relationship work and outside dangers such as Anastasia’s creepy boss (Eric Johnson) and Christian’s former submissive who is out for revenge, Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote.) However, the movie seemed rushed at points. For heavily advertising and marketing the masquerade ball, the scene only lasted about five minutes in total and was disappointing. For the amount of conflict present in the book, the writers definitely faced a challenge to fit all of the action into a two hour film.
The audience definitely got to see more of Mr. Grey’s body in this movie, especially in a scene featuring him working out in his gym, a fact that I (as well as the swooning middle- aged women surrounding me at the premiere) greatly appreciated. The sex scenes and nudity were very tastefully done and did not feel smutty or dirty.
Despite being filmed in Vancouver, B.C., the movie is set in Seattle and does have a very authentic feel, even including 12th man signs in the windows of stores in the background. It also includes some beautiful aerial shots of the city as well as Elliot Bay. The Space Needle is constantly in the background as a reminder that the action takes place in Seattle. Christian’s wealth and opulence is perfectly displayed, with a fleet of Audis, all Apple products, a luxurious penthouse and of course, the personal helicopter.
This movie introduced new characters that were a breath of fresh air. Eric Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia’s creepy yet charming boss was sinister and on-point, making him the saving grace of the movie and someone to look for in the next movie.
As a self-admitted fan of the book series as well as the first movie, I wanted to love “Darker” but left the movie feeling disappointed. For being the most action-packed book in the series, I thought the movie did not do the book justice and that the acting was uninspired and dry.
Overall, I give the movie 2.5 out of 5 stars, a rating definitely bolstered by the fact that I am a fan of the books and an appreciator of Dornan’s muscular physique. The movie was lacking passion needed from its protagonists and seemed hurried. For any fans of the series, a quick tip: stay for the credits, as there is a sneak peek for the final movie in the trilogy “Fifty Shades Freed” planned to be released in February of 2018. It has already been filmed, so that will leave you with plans for next Valentine’s Day as well.
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