Fifty Shades Darker

Time to break out the Kleenex and lube, kids! Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Luke Grimes and Academy Award winner Kim Basinger star in Fifty Shades Darker.

Fifty Shades DarkerCast of Characters:
Anastasia Steele – Dakota Johnson
Christian Grey – Jamie Dornan
Jack Hyde – Eric Johnson
Katherine Kavanagh – Eloise Mumford
Leila Williams – Bella Heathcote
Mia Grey – Rita Ora
Elliot Grey – Luke Grimes
Jose Rodriguez – Victor Rasuk
Elena Lincoln – Kim Basinger
Grace Trevelyan-Grey – Marcia Gay Harden

Director – James Foley
Screenplay – Niall Leonard
Based on the novel Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James
Producer – Michael De Luca, E. L. James, Dana Brunetti & Marcus Viscidi
Rated R for strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language

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Following the events of the first film, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has moved on from her psycho, BDSM boyfriend/stalker Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), much to Christian’s immense displeasure. He’s been missing being able to punish that sweet pole hole of hers for some time now, and it’s gotten to the point he’s willing to give up his creepy hobby as a dominant ’cause as he puts it, “he wants her more.”

Awww… I smell a big ole pile of bull shit. Of course, she falls for it, but we all know it won’t even take five minutes before he’s bending that tight, perky body over and gliding anal beads up her silky little rock and roll, hoochie koo.

Lawdy, mama, light his fuse.

But amidst all that writhing and gyrating and sweating and pulsating and glistening, Christian still won’t let go of his dark past, which explains all the brooding. And little does supple-bodied Anastasia know that dark, shadowy figures from Christian’s dark, dark, very dark, really, really dark past have reemerged in his life to destroy the fucking arrangement – aka love – he has with that cute little tart, and turn his world… even darker.

Hence the title.

Whelp, here we are with another entry to the Fifty Shades franchise, a franchise that for the life of me I can’t explain how it blew up into what it would become, but I guess there really are just that many sex-starved, panties-soaked housewives in this world. Of course, I can’t explain how the story itself became big. Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are far from Romeo and Juliet (and if you know the ending to Shakespeare’s classic, that’s a damn shame), but then again, why would I expect character depth above paper-thin from Twilight fan fiction?

All that said, I can explain why we’re getting a Fifty Shades sequel. The first film made a half billion dollars at the box office. That means I and nearly every other critic could tell you Fifty Shades of Grey is utter horse shit, and God help us, we sure did our part. When it comes to $500 million at the box office, however, none of our pleading is gonna alter Universal’s course from going full steam ahead toward a second film.

Much controversy has been made over E. L. James’s use of control of over her own work, particularly in regard to the departure of Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and James bringing in her husband Niall Leonard to write the sequel. Of course, I’m all for respecting the vision of the creator, but when said creator is as articulate as a Dick and Jane book, and worst of all, rose to fame by ripping off Twilight, how much pull should you really give her?

Anyway, so what about this movie? Well, it’s awful. Seriously awful.

I know. I can hear the fans sharpening their dildos now, ready to lunge at me screaming that I’m not the target demographic. Sure, I’m also not the target demographic for Monster Trucks, but it still did enough to justify me giving it a mildly favorable review (this is now the second time, not counting the original review, that I’ve defended Monster Trucks, which is ten times more than I was ever expecting to do). Fact is, it’s boring. It’s so boring a more fitting title would’ve been Fifty Times I Checked My Watch. On top of that, this is an erotic thriller, or so it claims to be, that is tragically thrill-less and unsexy. You know what’s more exciting and stimulating to watch?

  • Paint drying
  • C-SPAN
  • A geriatric nude beach
  • Two feral mutts popping out a Cleveland steamer on each other

Just to name a few.

I firmly believe that just as we’ve seen great source material translate to a bad film, it’s entirely possible to translate bad source material into a good film. On paper, Gone Girl is nothing more than a trashy, Lifetime soap opera… but David Fincher and an incredible cast turned it into one of the better thrillers of 2014. But no attempt is made to either critique the absurdities in James’s novels or elevate the material by examining the characters (I know, I know… what’s to examine?) and their flaws. Director James Foley (whose lone resume bright spot, 1992’s Glengarry Glen Ross, must’ve been a fluke) and Mr. E. L. James offer only a series of bland sex scenes surrounded by even blander story filler.

Don’t let the film’s tagline, “Every fantasy has a dark side”, fool you. This film is a cure for insomnia.

The film does provide three subplots that could’ve been developed further: Anastasia’s conflict with her boss, a former spurned submissive of Christian’s and a family friend who is the source of his bondage fetish (Kim Basinger, whose wooden performance is the only sign of “stiffness” this film will have any connection with). In stronger hands, these three conflicts could’ve been examined, probed and picked with a fine tooth and comb in order to develop something – hell, anything even remotely substantial. At best, though, they’re slapdash filler in between all of Ana and Christian’s humping. Not one of them make any impact within the story (one of the three will be carried over into the next film, but given that it’s the same cast/crew on a back-to-back shoot, I’m justifiably skeptical of any improvement), and those that are resolved are done so finger-snap quickly, though not as quickly as the speed of light transition Eric Johnson makes from hunky boss to moustache-twirling sexual predator. Conflict is treated like a side-note here, being reduced to a handful of horribly dialogued conversations that are concluded in laughably abrupt fashion (Christian’s confrontation with his ex would’ve taken the cake if not for a third-act near fatal helicopter crash that wraps up with him just walking back into his home to his family as if he wasn’t recently involved in a helicopter crash that nearly killed him).

Of course, I shouldn’t be judging this film for it’s lack of intensity or depth when it has the psychological depth of a toddler’s crayon scribbling and the tension of a car dealership air dancer. C’mon, everyone knows this film is all about the sex, and no one in their right mind is going to see this for its gripping narrative. All the ecstatic “Oooohhs!!!!” and “Aaaahhs!!” and myriad of catcalls that echoed throughout the theater I was in prove that. But much like the first film, Fifty Shades Darker manages to completely inject even the sex with a sterile shot of boredom. Forget hot, sexy and kinky. This film has the sex appeal of two rocks in the desert trying to fuck each other. Judging from the chemistry, or I should say lack thereof, between its two lead stars, it might as well have been.

What’s most disappointing here – and I’m not sure why I’m using words like “disappointing” since I don’t know what exactly I was looking forward to here, but whatever let’s go with it – is that not even Dakota Johnson steps away from this unscathed. As bad as Fifty Shades of Grey was, it had two redeemable elements: Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography and Johnson’s performance. I went in to this not expecting much from Dornan. Stronger emoting could’ve been performed by a corpse in both films. Johnson, however, is a talented young actress that has a very promising career to look forward to (if Kristen Stewart can rebound from Twilight, Johnson most certainly can rebound from this), but save for a few unfortunately brief moments of life, what spark she brought to the first film has fizzled out here. Yes, there wasn’t much for her to begin with in the last film, so that leads me to wonder just how much dumber does the material have to get for someone as talented as Johnson to give up and go flatline?

I guess Fifty Shades Darker just turned to its predecessor and said, “Hold my beer.”

I get that this isn’t supposed to be deep or thought-provoking. This is supposed to get all the ladies’ panties wet. I understand that. I’m not criticizing this film for being a zero IQ film per se; I’m criticizing this film for being a zero IQ film with zero style to compensate for it. The first film at least had a seductive aesthetic, aided primarily by McGarvey, that allowed for the film’s overall tediousness to be just a little more bearable. This film is as hot and heavy as erectile dysfunction.

Fifty Shades Darker will undoubtedly please fans of the inexplicably popular novel series, and they’ll surely flood this film with millions upon millions of box office dollars that will immediately guarantee the third film gets a shot at punishing moviegoers all around the world. But outside the sexually frustrated soccer moms crowd, most everyone else will see this lackluster piece of shit for exactly what it is – a flaccid and lifeless attempt at hot and steamy, thrilling erotica that somehow manages to be dull enough to destroy libidos. Aside from doing its damnedest to kill off your, mine and everyone else’s sex drive, if there’s anything this sequel can boast, it’s that it doubled down on Fifty Shades of Grey’s lifelessness enough to make its predecessor look good.

I give Fifty Shades Darker a D- (½★).

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