The marketing for ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is as follows. “Slip into something a shade darker”. Well, for the first half of this sequel adapted from the second addition to E.L. James’ popular erotic ‘Twilight’ fan-fiction ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, I ended up stepping in what looked to be a steamy pile of sh*t, only to end up braving the dark trenches of Christian Grey’s sexscapades with his submissive Anastasia Steele, all the way through a very interesting, yet romantic story-line which sets up the final movie in the ‘Fifty Shades’ series. I can’t deny that ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is a really bad sequel, let alone one that works as Hollywood pornography instead of an actual film, despite actually feeling some interest in its second half.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as the two lovers that nobody needed to root for in its first film. Only this time, the acting that I seemed to prefer in the first film is now nothing but gasping and stony Medusa-faces. From the moment Johnson’s Steele runs into Dornan’s Grey at an art exhibit run by Steele’s photographer friend, Jose (Victor Rasuk), there seems to be no element of surprise or shock. Instead, it just seems to be a “Hey. What are you doing here?” type of exchange. Add some very awkward lines (Fine. I will have dinner with you. Because… I’m… hungry.) and a rushed excuse to bring these two back together, and you have your movie.
One thing I appreciated about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ that kept it from being a terrible attempt at a romantic drama is the way each location was shot. Here, those shots do exist (Ex. A sweet moment on a boat where Christian is teaching Ana how to navigate; Christian flying a helicopter from Portland. I swear, it always has to be the scenes where navigation is necessary that prove themselves to be better than the actual film.) The music also fits every scene that is called for, which is a plus to keep you through each scene of horribly written dialogue and laughable moments. The romance is also improved, but not by much. Though a bit restrained, Christian Grey is still the same jealous boyfriend that made him a terrible example of a romantic lead in the first film.
The addition of new characters do not help whatsoever. We are introduced to Ana’s new boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who comes off as the usual cliché sleazy boss you notice in every romance film; Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), a woman from Christian’s past who shows up every now and then to “warn” Ana of Christian; and Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote), Christian’s former submissive, who comes off as more of a stalker than Christian was in the first film.
Somewhere in the end credits, we get a teaser for ‘Fifty Shades Freed’. Seeing that the film is doing well at the box office by far, we will end up seeing the final movie in the series. Once the film series is concluded, it will have been a pleasure to be relieved from the pain that is ‘Fifty Shades’.