I have a theory that the real purpose of the Fifty Shades movies is to test how stupid your writing can be before its fans start to catch on. Clearly no-one was turned off to the notion of a Fifty Shades of Grey sequel in spite of the first film simply existing, and since the Twilight fanfiction on which the first film is based already has two equally intelligent and romantic follow-ups, I suppose it was scarcely avoidable to begin with. And sure enough, even as the preview features a scene where the leading man convinces the leading lady to remove her panties in the middle of a five-star dining establishment so that he can later finger her in an elevator full of people, Fifty Shades Darker is set to be another popular Valentine’s Day attraction.
And don’t get me wrong, you’re entitled to liking ineptly written garbage that gets BDSM and abusive relationships mixed up. I get that a lot of you awkward types see yourselves in Anastasia Steele, in that you’re not prone to taking heed of blatant red flags if you at least get to watch a shirtless rich guy get handy with a riding rod for a few minutes. But the problems with the Fifty Shades franchise are worth discussing – not just the beautifully laughable content (seriously, listen to some of the lines in this film and remind yourself that actual humans bought this book for money), but also the messages it conveys as it convinces a generation (plus a myriad of lonely aunts) that a real-life equivalent to the relationship it depicts would be ideal as opposed to dangerous. If I wasn’t furiously unromantic with a predisposition to Schadenfreude, I would worry even more about these poor souls.
Since one of the redeeming qualities, a term I use reluctantly, of the first film was that Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) at least had the good sense to abandon her wealthy, kinky and nigh sociopathic boyfriend Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) by the end of it, it only figures that Fifty Shades Darker should start off with Ana and Christian getting back together again. Not because he’s no longer a manipulative stalker and control freak, but because I guess the movie needs to be about something and it might as well be the relationship between two cartoonish bores.
I’d tell a lie if I said there was more to the story than watching these two date again, likability be damned, and have a disagreement or two – such as when Christian growls at Ana about her new boss (Eric Johnson), of whom he’s excessively jealous – in-between meandering conversations about their relationship. The rest of the film is mainly composed of pointless moments, such as a fake-out death scene that only affects 5 minutes of the runtime, and non-factoring bit characters. One of Grey’s former lovers (Kim Basinger) turns up for a while, Ana’s roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford) gets together with Grey’s adoptive brother Elliot (Luke Grimes), and there’s even a sub from one of Grey’s former BDSM relationships, played by Bella Heathcote of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fame.
Then of course there’s the erotic scenes, which are about as bold and “shocking” as last time. Ooh, but now they’re also wearing mysterious masquerade masks that seem to be tailored similarly to those chokers and lingerie garments you reblog photos of on Tumblr. This is too sexy to handle, you guys!
I don’t really know what to say about this film that I didn’t say about the first entry in the series, being as I still have the same questions. I still don’t know why the glorification of domestic abuse taking place onscreen is less obvious to some than it is to others, and I’m still not sure why Davis Aurini gets rightfully called out when changing some names in his goofy Fallout fanfiction and putting that stuff up for sale, while an author like E.L. James can achieve mainstream success – even if I suspect that she isn’t necessarily writing for the world’s most difficult demographic.
Are you annoyed by this review so far? Can it be tiresome to hear so many critics tear these particular films a new one? Well, I’m not taking the blame for that one. If the filmmakers and the fans didn’t kid themselves into thinking this is somehow better than your average VHS porno (either in dignity, class, seriousness or acting levels), these films wouldn’t be the biyearly head and knee-slappers that they are. Considering the originality of their source material, these movies are like trying to pass off the Family Guy porno spoof as the highest and most daringly sexy of art. To be fair, though, spoofs like that tend to have more fascinating sex scenes.
I don’t feel the need or obligation to elabrote further on Fifty Shades Darker. It is, like its predecessor, a film made in bad taste that’s only going to warp the minds of those with the taste to enjoy it in the first place. Of course many of the attendees will be smarter than to take too much with them from this viewing experience, but in a world where people have a similar “#relationshipgoals” response to Harley Quinn and The Joker, you can never be too sure. Or optimistic, for that matter.
I’m just hoping this provides a sufficient deal of compensation now that I’m in the process of going through my most anticipated Oscar nominees in preparation for the ceremony. We can’t have nice things every day.