This weekend, Universal Pictures brings us the first potential blockbuster of 2017, the sequel to the record-breaking “Fifty Shades of Grey”. It was no surprise that after the 2015 surpassed the $500 million mark-worldwide, Universal was eager to get the ball rolling on the sequel.
Despite the hype and controversy surrounding the source material and the film itself, along with an overwhelmingly negative critical reception, no one predicted it to break records. Personally, I found the first film to be surprisingly solid. It was inarguably well-shot and Dakota Johnson sold herself as the shy and adorable Anastasia, but the saving grace was that it had a sense of humor about itself. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel was able to remove a majority of the source material’s clunky dialogue and poke fun at a lot of the absurdities. Although it missed the opportunity to explore it’s themes more thoroughly, I have to applaud Universal for being brave enough to release a film encouraging the exploration of female sexuality and boundary limits, especially in this day and age. Unfortunately for it’s sequel, the cast and crew have been replaced, and more creative freedom was given to the author, E.L. James.
While watching “Fifty Shades Darker”, it was evident that this series was under the direction of a new creative team. Director James Foley, trades the first film’s articulate and stylized look for one that is both trashier and sleazier. If the first film was “Last Tango in Paris”, then this entry is “Basic Instinct”. ‘Darker’ picks up merely days after it’s predecessor left off, as Ana and Christian attempt to rekindle their romance, albeit with a lot more compromise, meanwhile the secrets of Christian’s past come back to haunt them both. This ready-for-lifetime plot is a lot more fun than it sounds.
Perhaps the smartest decision ‘Darker’ made, was it’s decision to poke fun at itself at nearly every turn. They know exactly what kind of film this is, and who it’s for, so they decide to just run with it, and it kinda worked. Dornan and Johnson appear to be significantly more comfortable in their roles, and are able to really work with the inane dialogue and turn it into playful banter. But the real stand-outs of the film are the supporting cast, who are each given their moments to shine, most notably Kim Basinger and Eric Johnson, who star as the film’s antagonists.
Don’t get me wrong, this film is as silly as they come. But somehow, the filmmakers manage to ground it in the slightest bit of reality and the cast sells it (for the most part). Call me crazy, but I’m excited to see what “Fifty Shades Freed” has in store.
Fifty Shades Darker is now playing in theaters.