"Fifty Shades Darker" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
After the worldwide success of the first film, it was inevitable that there would be a film adaptation of "Fifty Shades Darker", the second entry in E.L. James' widely successful book series. While the second film does offer more in terms of a story and much more sex scenes that I'm sure many people have watched the first movie for, it lacks in performances, has an oddly paced storyline where too much happens while nothing happens at all, and just simply not as good as its predecessor.
The film picks up around exactly where the first movie ended, with Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) ends her "relationship" with eccentric billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) after realizing that his sort of relationship is not for her. She wants to have a more vanilla, normal relationship while he simply wants a submissive that will bend to his every need. However, Christian is struggling without her, which is a feeling he's never had before. He will now do anything to get her back, including getting rid of the contract and having a vanilla relationship with Anastasia.
When they rekindle their relationship, they start to navigate each other's lives and find how to bend around each other to make the relationship work. What they soon discover is it's hard for them to work, especially since they really are two different people. But, when an old submissive named Leila (Bella Heathcote) comes back into their lives in a very dangerous way, Christian and Anastasia must make sure they're protected from this woman that is mentally insane.
While the first scene may have lacked a lot in plot details and sex scenes, this film definitely tries to fix those mistakes. However, in doing that, there is just way too much for the runtime. Not only do we have a reconciliation of a relationship that truly shouldn't work, but we also have a crazed woman that wants to kill Ana, arguments between Ana and Christian due to her boss' creepy behavior, a massive helicopter crash that doesn't have as much weight as it should, etc. At the same time, the plot is structured so weirdly and doesn't really know when to have its climax and its resolve. It just keeps happening over and over again until the film ends. There is no real climax, and the ones they try to offer are just incredibly disappointing.
However, the sex scenes are very much on display here. This film sort of shows how the books sort of progress, with Ana and Christian have sex instead of confronting their problems. While this is very frustrating as a viewer, the sex scenes are shot very well. Like the first film, they leave little to the imagination and are still able to keep the R rating. After a while, there are way too many going on, but they still work if you come to see this movie just for the sex.
I think Dornan and Johnson are great actors, but their chemistry here doesn't really work as well. They seem like they are acting in two different movies at the same time, with both of them not really figuring out how to save this film as a whole. There are some moments that contain that charm and humor that I certainly enjoyed in the first movie, but a lot of it is removed in terms of a more dramatic character progression. Even then, there are so many instances throughout that are just too cheesy and ridiculous, especially in the first half of the movie. While the cheesiness was welcomed in the first movie, it just seems cringey throughout this entry in the franchise.
What is interesting is that some of the emotional moments do work in a way throughout the movie. As a viewer, I sort of feel bad for the Leila character, even though she is simply insane. At the same time, consider the scene where Christian gets in the helicopter crash. While it truly feels like something out of a very different film, I think this is easily one of the best segments of the picture and shows a more emotional depth from both Dornan and Johnson.
Like "Fifty Shades of Grey", this second entry is another popcorn flick that is definitely a guilty pleasure. It is definitely not a great film, and I'm not even sure I would call it good, but it is what it is. It isn't as good or entertaining as the first film, but if you enjoyed the previous installment, you'll like this one. Like I mentioned before, I don't think these films should really take themselves as seriously as they want us to take them, but that is perhaps the only way you can enjoy the movies in this series.