Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson
Director: James Foley
Running Time: 118 mins
Fifty Shades Darker is an American film and the sequel to Fifty Shades Of Grey. After having previously walked out on Christian, Anastasia returns to a now more balanced relationship with him. However, he is troubled by past demons whilst she begins to come to terms with the women that came before her.
I pretty much hated the first Fifty Shades Of Grey. Non-sensical, poorly written and painfully dull, there was very little to like about that movie. That’s why I’m absolutely baffled that its sequel is even worse. Continuing on from where the original left off with an utterly tedious and ridiculous story, nothing about Fifty Shades Darker grabbed me, whilst it loses any sense of the sleek, or even risky, nature of the first film.
The main reason that this film is so bad is the story. Featuring consistently incomprehensible twists and turns from start to finish that make an already dull story even less compelling, there was nothing here that got me intrigued in the lives of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.
And whilst the first film was tedious for its almost inactive story, following a weak Anastasia being suppressed by Christian, the fact that the sequel, which does have a modicum of character development, fails to provide any more intrigue or drama is unbelievable. We see Anastasia stronger against Christian, which adds a different dynamic to the relationship, but in turn makes the central focus of the entire series feel irrelevant.
As a result, we get all these random extra characters flying in and out of the lead duo’s lives that are supposed to have some sort of dramatic impact. Almost as inconsequential as some of the scenes from The Room, the new players in this sequel, namely Kim Basinger and Bella Heathcote’s characters, appear completely out of the blue, and don’t play anywhere near enough of a role to have the intended dramatic effect.
In short, whilst there’s a lot more going on in Fifty Shades Darker than its predecessor, it somehow manages to make everything even more boring. The main relationship is completely stale, the character development is under-utilised, and the new characters turn the film into some sort of weird, nightmarish soap opera that doesn’t make one bit of sense.
Then we move onto the performances. Now, I like Dakota Johnson. She’s a perfectly good actress who’s put in some great performances over the past few years, but this really isn’t one of them. In an almost identical situation to Kristen Stewart in Twilight, Johnson gives a laughably underwhelming performance lumbered by horrific dialogue and a tedious character. She can do a lot better, but she’s not able to bring her talents to the table in this film, and that makes her just as poor as everything else in Fifty Shades Darker.
Alongside Johnson, we have Jamie Dornan. As a character, Christian Grey feels (somehow) even less developed than last time out, and that means that Dornan, whose performance was pretty dull in the first film, doesn’t add much to the film at all, coming off as wooden and disinterested as he did before. Meanwhile, the likes of Kim Basinger, Bella Heathcote, Marcia Gay Harden and Eric Johnson, all of whom play in supporting roles, add almost nothing to the story. Again, their characters are as thin as paper, and the dialogue they’re given is horrific, but the performances don’t do much to rectify those issues.
Everything I’ve said so far is the sort of stuff you’d expect from Fifty Shades Darker, especially after the first film. However, what’s genuinely disappointing for me about this sequel is how it almost completely loses the best part of the dire original.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson left the project after an alleged spate with author of the books, E.L. James. In her place is James Foley, whose directing style just isn’t as strong. I genuinely thought that Fifty Shades Of Grey was a well-directed movie. Slick, modern and with a slight air of tension and mystery (even if it was far less risky than you’d expect), there was something about Taylor-Johnson’s style that grabbed me.
Unfortunately, Foley doesn’t manage to do the same. Fifty Shades Darker has a little bit of style from time to time, and the directing is still the best part of the movie, but it’s a far cry from what we know can be done with this awful story, and with a much duller and less slick visual style, I was even more disappointed with this movie than I ever thought possible.
Overall, it’s pretty clear that Fifty Shades Darker is a horrific film. Somehow worse and more boring than its terrible predecessor, it does nothing to build on the story we saw last time out, instead opting for a soap opera-esque structure full of random characters with completely incomprehensible motives. The performances are bad, the writing is atrocious, and even the directing is poor, and that’s why I’m giving Fifty Shades Darker a 1.8.