Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson
Genre: Thriller/ Romance
After she thought it best to end their relationship, Anastasia Steele (Johnson) decides to give billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan) another chance, but this time she demands a new arrangement. However, as the couple begin to build trust and finally find some stability, figures from Christian’s past threaten to destroy their hopes for a future together.
At one point during the many ‘heart to hearts’ that the two protagonists have, Christian Grey describes himself as a sadist, well the opposite word of masochist could easily be applied to anyone willing to part with their time and money to see this abysmal sequel that unbelievably manages to be worse than its predecessor.
Of course, to simply say that Fifty Shades Darker is a bad film may seem like stating the blindingly obvious, but it is not simply the fact that is a bad film, but just how bad it is that must be emphasised. The depressing fact is that this film was always going to make money, as long as it kept its title and the main characters. There was of course the possibility to do anything with the story, but it seems like all involved have resigned themselves to knowing that it will make money, and it actually feels like they have tried to make this film as bad as possible just to prove a point.
When writing about the hideously unfunny parody Fifty Shades of Black I made the point that Fifty Shades of Grey felt like a parody anyway, so to then parody that would be almost impossible. Well, it feels like screenwriter Niall Leonard and director James Foley intend to make Fifty Shades Darker as bad as possible, as it does genuinely feel like a parody itself, even more so than its predecessor. They were presented with an opportunity to do something good with this film, all they needed to do is keep the title and character names, and could have made this into a decent thriller if they had actually made some effort. They however seemed to have gone the other way and actually tried to make this film as bad as they possibly can, just to insult the intelligence of the audience even more. Well, the box office returns may have proved their point!
From start to finish Fifty Shades Darker is a truly laborious viewing experience that runs like a running commentary on what is wrong with so many modern films. It is a painfully repetitive narrative of clichéd dialogue and cringe-inducing plot developments that make even the worst romantic comedies look like Citizen Kane, combined with equally repetitive and dull moments of very light (and brief) softcore porn. Every ten minutes or so we get the two of them stare at each other for a while, a pop ballad kicks in, there is slow undressing (her not him) and then as the volume of the pop ballad is turned up there is a brief moment of missionary penetration. Then of course we cut to silence and the two of them laying somewhere with further staring. It is so repetitive and predictable that it does become quite amusing, and most certainly never, ever erotic. There is also a sequence involving a helicopter which I think tried to be dramatic and tense, but it is so badly done that it is just dull and completely pointless.
One of the best things about Fifty Shades of Grey was how director Sam Taylor-Johnson put the film together, and from an aesthetic point of view it was very well made. Director James Foley does an equally solid job, using the Seattle setting and John Schwartzman’s pristine cinematography very well, but could have certainly done more to create an effective atmosphere. Meanwhile Danny Elfman’s score is solid, but forgettable. After this and The Girl on The Train, he seems to be going through a bit of mediocre spell.
The quality of the performances from the two leads are the opposite of the first film; Jamie Dornan seems far more assured this time round, exuding more screen presence and confidence in the role of Christian Grey, and he also portrays his character’s deep internal scars quite effectively. A vast majority of the lines of dialogue he has to say are of course terrible, but he does a decent job with what he is given, and some of the suggestions about his past do actually prove initially intriguing, but are not ever developed particularly well.
Meanwhile Dakota Johnson, who was okay in the first film, is appallingly bad this time round. I am sure she only did the first one to raise her profile, and that seems to have worked, and now she appears to be particularly bored this time, with her delivery of every line of dialogue lacking any real conviction and often emphasising the wrong words. The fact her character is a walking cliché that constantly contradicts herself for the convenience of the plot certainly doesn’t help, but it is obvious that she now wants no more to do with this franchise now it has raised her profile.
There is decent support provided by Marcia Gay Harden as Christian’s adopted mother, as well as newcomers to the franchise Bella Heathcote, Kim Basinger and Eric Johnson. The first two providing potentially interesting plot devices that reveals elements of Christian’s past, but this is sadly underdeveloped. Meanwhile Johnson’s character of Anastacia’s new boss is basically an extremely contrived plot device, but provides the necessary setup to the next film. Oh, and Rita Ora is in it, again.
I will of course admit that I am not the target audience, and I feel deeply sorry for those that are, as they are being treated like idiots by all responsible for making this film. Those behind this hideous excuse for a ‘film’ have displayed abominable and unforgivable levels of complacency, and the only effective thing about Fifty Shades Darker is that it does in many ways some up so many things that are wrong with the current film industry.
I film so bad, that surely those behind it must have intentionally tried to make it as bad as possible; the hideous dialogue and plotting of Fifty Shades Darker means that it surely must be a parody, but just one that is never, ever funny.