Riding the wave of success that was the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, Universal Pictures knew they were onto a banker at the box office as they took home a whopping $571m from a $40m budget in 2015. Despite a raft of criticisms that damaged the reputation of the series, including a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 25%, the studio saw it in their wisdom to create Fifty Shades Darker.
According to the reviewers who witnessed the sequel for themselves, it is 118 minutes they wish they could get back again. Returning Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan to reprise their roles, the picture has been castigated and lambasted for a lack of imagination. The sequel even makes the original appear half decent in comparison.
Change In Direction Damaged The Film Irreparably
Catherine Shoard of The Guardian could not muster anything above the 1/5 star rating. Deriding the lack of direction from James Foley as he struggled to maintain any type of control over proceedings.
"The only thing aroused by this headache of a movie is a desire to see Sam Taylor-Johnson (original director) back at the reins," started Shoard. "Spliced between such drama come the sex scenes, steamy as a greasy spoon and almost as erotic. Fifty Shades’s chief way of proving how dirty it is seems to be making its stars take endless showers – which inevitably leads to more sex, and so a terrible cycle of shagging and washing."
Dipping in and out of softcore scenes that offer little, Shoard argues that the character's logic is completely flawed to begin with.
"As the movie progresses, so cohesion further loosens and we descend into soap. One woman gets not only a martini in the face but also a slap chaser... This incompetence is entertaining until you consider the psychology. Anastasia seems almost as unhinged as her boyfriend, forever chopping and changing between being captivated by his behaviour and clocking he’s a psychopath. Her rationale for sticking with him is also worrisome: his main rival turns out to be, deep down, just as disturbed. If all men are sadists, you might as well go for one with money."
Glorified Models Looking The Part, Just Not Acting It
Guy Lodge of Variety takes specific mention of the leading actors. Pointing out that their aesthetics really are the only thing going for them.
"As for the stars, they grin and bear it as best they can, which is to stay they valiantly don’t grin much at all," he concludes. "So wonderful and resourceful in the first film, Johnson isn’t given even the raw material to make an equivalent impression this time round, but maintains a beguilingly responsive, curious screen presence even through Anastasia’s inscrutable shifts in consciousness. Dornan, sporting an extra coat of stubble and, impossibly, even further evidence of gym hours than before, has even less to work with, but accepts his aesthetic obligations with good grace."
David Edelstein of Vulture is slightly more forgiving for the picture. But admits that the central narrative of the screenplay is lost amid a host of endless erotica that doesn't exactly push the boundaries.
"People are calling Fifty Shades Darker the worst movie ever made, but it’s really not that terrible," said Edelstein. "It does, however, misrepresent itself, which is true of most mainstream American films about sex. The movie’s real subject is wealth — and how much a woman is willing to accept being owned in return for beautiful clothes and cars and planes and houses. It could be The Melania Trump Story if the male were a Cheeto-colored lunatic whose businesses often go under and the woman couldn’t utter a single coherent sentence in English not written by someone else."