By Jack Dignan
We’re currently 41 days into 2017, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that may days. Yet in these 41 days, the unofficial competition for worst film of the year has already gotten well underway. With 324 days left to go, plenty of films still have a shot at claiming the title, becoming the absolute worst film released this year, but unfortunately for us, there’s already some stiff competition. Adding to this list of possible winners is Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the world’s most successful series of Twilight fan-fiction.
2015 re-introduced the world to Fifty Shades of Grey. Based on the best seller by E.L. James, the big screen adaptation was one of the most talked about films of the year, and also one of the worst, going so far as to end on an abrupt, unneeded cliffhanger that didn’t necessarily tease the sequel to come, but instead leave the audience in a perplexed state of being. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has left Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his abusive ways for good. Or at least until this film starts, Christian merely demanding her presence at dinner, and look at that, she comes along, their relation kicking back into gear as if it never left.
For a ‘relationship,’ if that’s even the right word, as complicated as the one on screen, it seems to be going well. ‘Well’ being a relative term. Abuse and manipulation is ignored and romanticized, arriving in many forms throughout. Since the film is in desperate need of a plot, Anastasia finds herself tangled in the lives of Christian’s exes, including the woman who started his BDSM obsession, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger). Trying to fulfill the titular tease, the sequel attempts to take a darker route this time around, Elena filling in that hole. Do they succeed? Well… a lot of the film takes place at night, if that counts, and a gun is held at one point, but other than that…. No, it does not succeed.
One of the reasons for Anastasia’s departure after the last film concluded, which puzzlingly has very little to do with Christian’s overall creepiness and stalker nature, is that she couldn’t handle his contracted punishments. She asked to show him the worst it can get, so he gives it to her, spanking her several times before she leaves in frustration. Ignoring all problems from the first film, as that tragedy is long in the past now, what’s curious about this sequel (amongst many things) is the fact that she seems to have gotten over this. At one point, she even begs him to spank her again, contradicting the character they’ve set up (if she constitutes as a legitimate character) for the sake of having another sexual encounter between the two leads.
There’s no point in denying it, this film exists merely for the sex, a plot element that the first film felt rather restraint at showing. I still can’t decide whether or not that was a good move or a bad one, but the sequel seems to place the sex back into the spotlight, damping down the kinkiness and upping the quantity. It’s insistent in working sex into every scenario it possibly can, but it does so to subpar results. The nudity on screen remains mostly female; a questionable decision when the target audience is straight, middle aged women. It’s bland and repetitive, coming and going throughout with little excitement or arousal. It’s sex for the sake of showing sex, every sex scene the same. There’s about three of the same shower scenes, and even more less than ordinary scenes in bed.
Despite attempts being made to focus in more on the sexual side of things, screenwriter Naill Leonard, who’s married to the book’s author, still attempts to give this film some sort of a plot. Christian Grey’s previous submissive’s come back to haunt him, stalking him in similar ways that he stalks them. The plots come in high demand, never lasting more than five minutes. Elena’s screen time is about as uninteresting as can be, her character given three scenes, all of which she spends throwing shade at Anastasia for no justifiable reason, and the exact same critique can be given to the character of Leila (Bella Heathcote). There’s zero consequences to any of her actions, merely leaving Anastasia shocked for thirty or so seconds before the plot moves right along.
Strong female leads in cinema is something we could always use more of, but unfortunately Fifty Shades Darker comes along and slaps that idea right in the face. While Anastasia was an irritatingly weak character the first time around, the ending hinted at a sense of independence starting to brew. Granted, that ending was an absolute piece of shit, and the ending this time around is only a little bit better, but it had that going for it. Then the sequel arrived, destroying whatever ounce of humanity she had left going for her. Not one decision is made on her own, Christian pestering her to the point where she’s left with no other options but to let him decide her actions for her. Whenever she tries to speak up for what she believes in, she’s shut down immediately, deciding instead to sleep with Christian every single time.
It’s insulting to watch this film insist that she’s some strong, independent woman, when all she does is let everyone around her trample all over her. Everything that happens in this film happens because of Christian, at one point a side character even telling her he did something because he knew she’d say no if he asked. She’s taken advantage of scene after scene. Her boss, played by Eric Johnson, says he’s not forcing Anastasia to sleep with him, just as he tries to force her to sleep with him, and the film seems to enjoy this. Good things happen to her because of his actions, yet none of which were her doing. All of them happen because of a thing somebody else did at an earlier point in the film, once again showing just how weak and unsupported of a character she is.
Halfway through this film’s credits, a trailer plays for the third and thankfully final installment in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed. Honestly, I cannot wait for this film to arrive, as it will allow these fucking terrible movies to be forgotten about, never spoken of and washed away in the sea of time. We will, fittingly, be freed.
Like the article? Make sure to spread the word on social media.
You May Also Like: