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Movie Review: Fifty Shades Darker

Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli


Not since Twilight has there been a franchise as publicly detested and shot down as the Fifty Shades series, and being that it’s a fan-fiction of the above mentioned saga, it’s not difficult to figure out why. It’s what people love to hate, citing the illogical nature of the story, the unbelievable characters and the controversial sexual practices as reasons for it. However, is this hate justified?

After having made a killing at the box office with its first film, the story returns with a seemingly darker and more intense depiction of the key relationship, introducing elements of psychological thrill in an attempt to spice up the plot of this otherwise simple erotic tale. Directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) and written by Niall Leonard (E.L. James’ Husband), Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) finds herself once again wrestling with her feelings for Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) while also dealing with the jealous natures of the women who came before her.

Now, before I get into it I should warn you, I consider these films a guilty pleasure. While I recognize the ridiculous nature of this whole situation, I have read all the books and un-ironically went to see both films at the theater. I enjoy the absurdity of a billionaire playboy falling for the completely inexperienced college graduate. I relish his constant showings of opulent wealth against her desire to live out a “normal” American lifestyle. And yes, when the books initially came out I hungered over the seemingly intense sex scenes where nothing was held back. However, with age has also come perspective, and as a result the cliché lines, the awkward shows of affection and the seemingly forced tension, the movies now cause me to cringe rather than sigh. Still, I bought my ticket and went into the film with an open mind and an affectionate heart.

All that being said… (shocker!)… this was not a good movie.

Lets start off with the direction, something for which many people were optimistic bearing in mind Foley’s proven talent. Unfortunately, to say it was basic is an understatement. The whole thing was very paint-by-numbers, by which I mean each scene did exactly what it was meant to do and nothing more. There was no flair, no artistic license, nor any interesting shots. It was all just very… bland. The only time things became a little interesting was when – you guessed it – the two protagonists were getting it on. There, we got intense close ups of various body parts and an advertisement for a new pop song soon to hit the charts. The best I can compare it to is a music video, where the beats of the song dictated the action on screen, sacrificing character development for pulses and gyrations.

In fact, I would have hoped that at least the love-making scenes were something to watch, taking into account these are the moments which 90% of the audience will have probably come to see. However, due to the strange pacing of the whole film, even this leaves much to be desired. In an attempt to get through all the events of the novel, it sacrificed closure, in every sense. Each scene felt unfinished and everything felt rushed. It jumps from place to place and at the end you’re left more confused than satisfied.

Finally, I should mention the performances. They were… fine. Johnson, as we know by now, does have talent, as does Dornan (Don’t believe me? Watch The Fall), which means that you can’t really blame them as they are doing the best with what they have. The lines are at times strange and the scenarios a bit questionable, but the two leads still manage to find a way of projecting some semblance of chemistry and character into these literary personifications.

That is one of the few positives, as where the first one lacked any chemistry or ‘heat’, this one makes up for it, creating two actual people who seem to be in an actual relationship with a relatively equal footing.

All that being said, your enjoyment of this movie really hinges on two points:

  1. Have you read the books AND enjoyed them?
  2. Do you really care about logic, plot, and film techniques?

If you answered yes to the first and no to the second then you’re good to go, otherwise if I were you I’d steer very clear.

Fifty Shades Darker is a film that is here to entertain its intended audience, and I can safely say that if you fall into that category you’ll (probably) have a pretty good time. However, if you don’t identify as one of these individuals, this won’t be a psychologically intriguing thriller with erotic undertones, it will be two hours of confusion, boredom and frustration that won’t be worth your time or your money. And if this is the case — quickly exit the theater and exchange your ticket for something else that’s playing… literally anything else. The Lego Batman Movie, anyone?

Alice Ginevra Micheli
Her love of film, novels and all things media led her to study Screen and Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Fascinated with the culture of entertainment today she keeps up to date on all the news and going-ons within the industry. When not traversing the internet and cinemas, she spends her time catching up on whatever TV or book series she's currently obsessed with.

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