FIFTY SHADES DARKER (USA/18/118mins)
Directed by James Foley. Starring Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote.
THE PLOT: Picking up where the first film left off, Ana (Dakota Johnson) finds herself unable to resist when Christian (Jamie Dornan) tells her he wants her back. Demanding “No rules, no punishments and no more secrets”, Ana quickly falls back into bed with her paramour, but soon finds that all is not as rosy as it seems.
THE VERDICT: Here we go again folks, another ‘Fifty Shades’ movie, and another burst of discussions about “Mommy porn” and sexual freedom. The trouble with this story, however, is that there really isn’t much of one, and anyone going in for an ogle at the sex scenes will be sorely disappointed.
After much speculation that Dornan and Johnson were not returning to their leading roles in the ‘Fifty Shades’ franchise, they are back, but director Sam Taylor-Johnson and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey are out. Do not despair, ‘Fifty Shades’ fans, their absence is not holding back this cinematic freight train. Dornan and Johnson reprise their roles, and other than Ana being a little less tolerant of Christian’s controlling ways, all is as it was the first time around. The performances are wooden and there is no tangible chemistry between these two leads playing characters who seemingly cannot resist one another. The rest of the cast features Marcia Gay Harden, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora and Bella Heathcote.
The story, adapted from EL James’ book by her husband Niall Leonard, is full of plotholes and inconsistencies – as we have come to expect from the first film – and although the main issue with the first film was Christan Grey’s stalker-ish and controlling ways, there has been little effort made to make him any less obsessive and possessive, although attempts are made to humanise him, that really don’t work. As for the dialogue, well it is just as painful as that of the first film, and contains gems such as “I don’t like strangers gawking at you” and “He wants what’s mine”, which elicited some uncomfortable laughter from the audience.
As director James Foley seems unconcerned with creating a dramatic arc, or ebb and flow throughout the film, so that when obstacles are thrown up in the young lovers’ way, they seem forced, for the sake of creating tension, and do not work. The sex scenes are as dull and vanilla as Ana herself hopes for, even as she begs to be taken back to the Red Room, and the entire film is unsatisfying, and feels rather pointless.
In all, ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is Fifty Shades Duller than the first film, with unimaginative and clunky storytelling, boring – and surely painful – sex scenes, and beige characters that do little to set the screen alight.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    ‘Every fairytale has a dark side’ proclaims the poster for Fifty Shades Darker. Universal Studios got that one right. The ‘mummy porn’ Fifty Shades franchise is pure fantasy and female wish-fulfillment, driven by the kind of snigger-inducing bonkfest that looked dated even 20 years ago. So, what does this first sequel hold in store?

    Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) has broken up with kinky billionaire Christian (Jamie Dornan). She finds a new job working in a publishing house, as an assistant to Jack (Eric Johnson), an older man who has his eyes on her. Christian can’t let her go though and slowly seduces his way back into her life. Not knowing any better, Ana takes him back as he reveals more about his troubled past and explains why he is the way he is. ‘I don’t do relationships’. Well, things have changed. As Ana gets back into Christian’s intoxicating world of money, glamour and red room recreational activities, she has to deal with the past women in Christian’s life – snarky Elena (Kim Basinger) and obsessive Leila (Bella Heathcote). They start to encroach on her space, as Ana becomes more deeply involved with the tortured Christian…

    Now that Sam Taylor-Johnson has stepped away from the director’s chair due to ‘creative differences’, novelist E.L. James has taken greater creative control over her dubious creation. The result is less than inspiring. Fifty Shades Of Grey admittedly wasn’t much good, weighed down by a frankly ridiculous story. However, Johnson and Dornan managed to get it past the finish line. Fifty Shades Darker is the typical cookie-cutter sequel – it seeks to develop the story while giving you more of the same. Nothing original there then. Director James Foley has form in these types of stories, as with the notorious stinker Perfect Stranger a decade ago. Fifty Shades Darker is still lumbered with the same mistakes as its predecessor – only worse.

    Ana is still doe-eyed, (mostly) passive and prone to making stupid comments at the most awkward times. She wouldn’t know a bad relationship if it came up and slapped her on the behind. Christian still wrestles with his demons, yet manages to come across as two-dimensional and lacking an essential human quality – empathy. Who is this guy? Johnson and Dornan are better actors than this and really deserve better material to work with. This reviewer feels sorry for them, stuck in this poorly-regarded franchise. Thankfully, they’ve shown that they’re capable of striking out on their own recently, Johnson with a good turn in A Bigger Splash and Dornan with Anthropoid. At one point, there’s a reference in this ‘relationship’ to Jane Austen. If Foley and James are referring to some sort of twisted Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy-type relationship, then they’re badly mistaken. Austen would be horrified, let alone modern audiences.

    With a very brief mid-credit teaser hinting at what’s to come in Fifty Shades Freed, there’s not much hope for in this franchise climbing out of its mediocre two stars territory. That second star is there solely for Johnson and Dornan. Otherwise, this would truly be a turkey. **