Call Me a purist, but I always think that if a sequel is “Darker” in its title, is that it must be, well, less light than the film is the following. More melodic, perhaps. Darker, if you like. Maybe a little more tenebrious and twilight. But the creators of Fifty Shades Darker, obviously, do not agree. The sequel of the movie of Fifty Shades of Grey, again an adaptation of a best-selling ‘erotic’ ‘novel’ by THE James, is brighter, cheerier, more colorful, and, in total, more fluid than its predecessor. It is also better. But only slightly.
The last movie that came to an abrupt end of the coitus interruptus variety. A student with a long fringe and the unlikely name of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) was being whipped by its brooding billionaire boyfriend, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), when she decided that their taste for S&M was too extreme for her. She left him, disgusted by his savagery. It seemed as if there was a little bit of hope that they could save their relationship.
It would be more in half the time if it were not for the regular as a clock sex scenes
And yet – spoiler alert – that store the same at any time. In the beginning of Fifty Shades Darker, Ana is in the opening of her friend’s photography show in Seattle (creepily, this so-called friend told him that several of those pictures will be poster-sized close-ups of her) when Christian comes in and promises him that from now on he does not want to do anything in or outside the room bothers her. He is very interested in the whips and chains, because he had a bad childhood, he explains, but now he is willing to put all that behind him. Ana agrees to give him another chance. And that is all. That is the whole movie.
Despite drifting along nearly two hours, as 50 Shades Darker is about nothing, except to be a Christian, nice, and Ana is happy. It would be more in half the time if it were not for the regular as a clock sex scenes and some of the most distractingly blatant product placement seen outside of a Bond movie.
And don’t get too excited about those sex scenes. Johnson and Dornan athletically get your tapas on a regular basis, but the reformed Christian is not to convince Hannah to do something that would be too extravagant for a romantic comedy. The posters show the loving use of masks, which could suggest some kind of illegal swingers club like in Eyes Wide Shut. But no, it turns out that Christian’s parents are throwing a Venetian-themed charity ball. The ‘Dark’ about that?
Destined to fail
To be fair, there are a couple of speed bumps in the course of true love. One of Christian’s exes (Bella Heathcote) is still appearing and grim-looking. The woman who taught Christian everything he knows about slavery appears, also, though because she is played by Kim Basinger, she makes you wish you were watching 9 1/2 Weeks. Ana also has some difficulties in his groovy new office job, (therefore making you wish you were watching Johnson’s mother, Melanie Griffith, in Working Girl). And Christian’s helicopter crashes without any reason. But it is very funny how easy and fast that these small inconveniences are smoothed over and forgotten. It can be a thrill to have a boyfriend-so-rich, well-connected, skilled and decisive that it can make all the problems vanish instantly, but does not do much for dramatic tension.
There are moments in the film of the comedy is deliberate, rather than accidental
Even so, the fact that Fifty Shades Darker is really Fifty Shades lighter than the first movie, it’s a point in its favor. One of the redeeming features of Fifty Shades of Grey was that Johnson was well aware of how daft it was, and managed to undercut its pomposity with an array of eye rolls, stews, and ironicly delivered lines. It is difficult to say that the film’s director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, saw the funny side, but his replacement in the sequel, James Foley, is happy to enjoy her first lady rogue’s sense of humor. Ana is a strong heroine as a result, and there are times when the movie of the comedy is deliberate, rather than accidental.
Still is not very big, mind you. With its wispy plot, flat dialogue, his rudimentary mise en scene, and their drooling worship of the super-rich’s conspicuous consumption, Foley silly romantic fantasy is only a couple of semi-nude scenes, far from being a day-TV movie. But the added lightness makes a welcome change. It seems as if everyone involved in the production realized that due to Fifty Shades of Grey was terrible, but the fact of the £450 million dollars at the box office, anyway, I might as well relax and enjoy themselves.
The problem is that if you take away Christian’s tortured soul and his air of mystery, you are left with, essentially, a boring person. Is there a possibility that Ana will stay with this humourless dweeb after that she got tired of being handcuffed and blindfolded? Towards the end of the movie, someone is accused of being a gold-digger, and I was struck by what an ingenious twist that would be. What happens if the trilogy’s next instalment revealed that Anna was a cunning confidence trickster who only put up with Christian’s kinks because she wanted his money? It would be much more interesting than anything that happens in Fifty Shades Darker.