At the heart of any good film is a good story – and that is where Fifty Shades Darker fails within the first few minutes.
I’ll admit firsthand that I’m not quite in the film’s key demographic. I’m a male, under the age of 25. But I’ve sat through my fair share of romances, rom-coms, eroticas and come out the other end feeling that I was told a decent story, even without guns and explosions. However, with James Foley’s adaptation of the second film in the Fifty Shades trilogy I left the cinema feeling empty and numb – almost as if I’d spent two hours trying to work out if what I was seeing on screen was actually meant to provide entertainment or not.
Based on E.L James hugely popular sequel, Fifty Shades Darker picks up moments after the first film’s climactic conclusion, where Dakota Johnson’s shy, polite protagonist Anastasia Steele walked out on Jamie Dornan’s brooding, boring and, err, kinky Christian Grey. Unsurprisingly, within about five minutes of this film’s opening their relationship is back on, and the first of many surprisingly vanilla sex scenes kicks off.
Alongside this relationship’s rekindling comes the sadly formulaic way in which this film is put together. It’s almost as though the story was assembled after the sex scenes were devised, as bookending every dramatic set piece or tense conversation is an overproduced sex scene accompanied by a loud pop song. And this goes on for near on two hours.
Some credit must be given to the screenwriter for assembling dialogue that actually transcends the source material, but aside from that there is little to recommend about Fifty Shades Darker. It’s boring, long and prefers to tease its eroticism rather than deeply explore any of the potentially interesting subject matters that are introduced. Issues like self-harm, depression, sexual harassment and relationship struggles are dotted throughout the running time, but the film – like the book – prefers to focus on cuffs and whips.
Two films in it’s hard to see how next year’s Fifty Shades Freed can save this dull franchise.
Reviewed by Steward Sowman-Lund