- Actors: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes
- Director: James Foley
- Writer: Niall Leonard
- Producers: Michael De Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti, Marcus Viscidi
- Disc Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
- Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Rated: Not Rated
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Release Date: May 9, 2017
- Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
They have made it far too easy to bash the Fifty Shades of Grey film franchise, simply by deciding to adapt books that are absolute garbage. The narrative itself is flawed from the very beginning, even more so than the first film. Here’s where reviewing Fifty Shades Darker gets tricky; while the filmmaking has noticeably improved since the first outing, the story being adapted in the second book is even more pointless than the first time around. There is virtually no plot, the characters are poorly developed and often contradictory, and somehow even with increased sex scenes it has become even more blandly forgettable.
We return to the so-called romance between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey (seriously, who the hell thought these were good character names?), despite their separation at the end of the first. After trying to accept the rules required by Christian (Jamie Dornan), Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) realizes that she can’t handle the fact that he is aroused by causing pain. Fifty Shades Darker allows us a brief opening where the characters stay true to how they were written, before both suddenly change their personalities. Christian decides that he wants love instead of his typical sadistic abusive relationships, and Anastasia suddenly becomes the initiator in many of the S&M situations. How can this poorly written narrative justify their sudden shift? It doesn’t have to, because this film is nothing more than a pathetic fantasy narrative never even remotely grounded in reality.
The entire story is as much about the unrealistic fantasy of a woman being able to fix a broken bad boy as it is the sexual dynamic. In short, this is porn for lonely women who would like to believe that they can find a damaged millionaire that only wants them and is willing to change everything about themselves in order to have a happily ever after. Porn is more realistic than these films, and I’m not even talking about the sex scenes. This film not only wants to have its cake and eat it too, it imagines the cake is also calorie-free and makes your shit smell like roses.
The closest thing to a story in this sequel is a sleazy boss (Eric Johnson) sexually harassing Anastasia, which makes no sense considering he knows that she is dating the tycoon who recently bought the company that they work for. The rest of the film is about Christian learning not to be a possessive boyfriend (because apparently that can be taught by a naïve 20-something near-virgin even after decades building the habits), while also breaking down his emotional walls to let Anastasia in. Sure, there is a red herring sub-plot involving the possessive former women of Christian’s past, including a scorned lover and the woman that taught him his sadomasochistic ways (played by a plastic Kim Basinger), but none of this really goes anywhere. Even the development between Anastasia and her boss is briefly covered, pushed to the side for the next and last (thank GOD!) film in the series. At nearly two-hours (longer if watching the extended cut), Fifty Shades Darker has too little plot for a 90-minute film. I’ve seen porn with more of a story arc than this pathetic narrative.
The real reason many people will likely see this film is the sex scenes, which are increased in quantity while somehow getting a great deal tamer in actual content. I’m sure there are those who are actually invested in the romance between these two cardboard cutouts, but the elements of love are essentially carried by the film’s soundtrack far more than the dialogue or any acting abilities of the stars. The film at least attempts to shoehorn in some romance in-between the vanilla sex scenes, even if it will likely only affect those already invested. The unrated cut of the film may feature nearly 15-minutes more footage, but there is only one additional sex scene and nothing new added to those existing. Extended cut would be a far more appropriate way of classifying it, rather than unrated. While it is true that this cut was never submitted for rating, there is absolutely no doubt that it would still be a very flaccid R-rating. I had to make a strong effort not to fast forward several times throughout this uneventful and bland movie.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are four generic featurettes, which are as melodramatic as the film itself despite being just as dull. The title of this film itself should be considered false advertising, as this sequel is no darker and certainly no sexier than the cartoonish first. It simply goes down smoother because audiences either expected the worst or don’t care about the quality as much as their unrealistic fantasies being fulfilled onscreen as they never will be in life. In addition to these four Blu-ray promotional pieces, there is another with the cast and filmmaker praising their own film. Also included is a 30-second tease of the next film (although anyone who gives a rat’s ass likely already knows what it will contain) and a 3-minute discussion with “author” E.L. James discussing her “books.” The deleted scenes are no more than two one-minute scenes that have absolutely no value whatsoever. This package also comes with a digital copy, for those not too ashamed to watch this film on the go or on a computer with the rest of the basic porn.
Entertainment Value: 3.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 3/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10
Special Features: 4/10