‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Review: WTF (What the Franchise?)

The philosophy of Franchise Fred is that a sequel is automatically more interesting because it’s got the history of the first film behind it. Fifty Shades Darker proves me wrong. This movie is dumber because the characters have learned nothing from the first movie and repeat the exact same unhealthy relationship, with stupider dialogue.Fifty Shades Darker

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) just attracts possessive men. In the first five minutes, her friend creates a photo exhibit using her image without her consent and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) buys them all because he doesn’t like people gawking at her. Ana agrees to have dinner with him (specifying that it’s only because she’s hungry, even more stilted than any exchange in the first film).

He immediately wants to renegotiate terms, promising to be more vanilla, which really he shouldn’t do either. He should just find a more experienced sub for himself, but for all Ana’s talk about going slow, she initiates sex that night. She also jumps right back into bondage games, saying, “Last time was different.” Different how? Nothing has changed. Why would you be any more comfortable with it now?

Fifty Shades DarkerThey do play with a few new bondage toys for the sequel, although it’s still basic territory like spreader bars. When he makes her lick the Ben Wa balls before he puts them in, I sure hope that was a brand new pair. She doesn’t know where they’ve been! They introduce nipple clamps but then never use them on Ana. That’s like introducing the kickboxer in Snakes on a Plane and he never kicked a snake.

There’s not even a honeymoon phase where Christian seems to be redeemed. He continues to act possessive with Ana’s boss (Eric Johnson), and forces her to accept $24,000. 

If there were tensions between E.L. James and director Sam Taylor-Johnson on the first film, James got her wish on Fifty Shades Darker. I can only imagine her dialogue is being recited verbatim from the page, because there’s no other explanation for how a Hollywood screenwriter, an experienced director or A-list actors would agree to it otherwise. There’s no more Sam Taylor-Johnson trying to make it somewhat believable. Everyone knows their job: say the lines exactly as written.

Fifty Shades DarkerGrey says he already told Ana about his mother while she was asleep, as if that totally counts as sharing. Ana accuse Christian of distracting her with his kinky fuckery. When Ana gets a shot at a promotion at work, she has the brilliant idea that the publishing firm should publish a popular author with a young demographic.

There are hints at common sense. Buying Christian vanilla ice cream is cute. Bidding that $24,000 at Christian’s charity auction is a clever way of taking the power back, pretty much the only way she can render his financial dominance moot. That’s as close as we get to actual human interaction.

Fifty Shades Darker doesn’t even understand the most minimal concept of the passage of time. Ana’s boss gets jealous of Christian all of a sudden. I guess he could be a distraction from her work, but we never see that. Only the boss’s sudden alpha posturing. A major crisis is suddenly resolved and the timing is comical.

Basic behavior is comical too. Maybe the guy taking secret pictures at Christian’s ball should turn the sound of his phone off so it doesn’t make that loud camera shutter sound effect. In one of the sex scenes, Christian’s thrusts are actually timed to the pause in the music.

I’m not sure I can take one more of these. Unless Fifty Shades Freed is My Big Fat Bondage Wedding. I will also accept Fifty Shades Freed: Tokyo Drift. Anyway, stop distracting me with your kinky fuckery.

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