Many films can be described as a hot mess, but 50 Shades Darker is more of a tepid accident.   I feel the need to remind you if you are unaware that the ‘book’ series the films (there will be a third one eventually) are based on was written as “Twilight” fanfiction by author EL James.  Yes, really.  Because obviously the “Twilight” books needed a little help in the personal narrative department.

The sequel to the hugely lucrative 50 Shades of Grey has returning stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey:

Oh wait wrong trailer, sorry:

The film is pretty much exactly what the trailer says it is, a return of these characters who had broken up in the first movie.  As a refresher, Christian is a 27 year old businessman philanthropist with a ton of money, some serious mommy issues and a taste for BDSM (or in his case, highly unstable control kink complex). Ana is a young literature major who worked at a hardware store to pay her way through college. Christian takes an interest in Ana, and pursues a contractual dom/sub relationship with her, even though it’s not really her thing.  She experiments and finds she likes a touch of black leather in her life which is good, but he is controlling and stalkery and demanding and dangerous and not in the good Master way. They break up.

50 Shades Darker picks up with Ana working as an executive assistant in a small publishing house, and Christian trying to win her back.  This of course is done with a number of awkward, badly written scenes that had many in my audience laughing.  There are also two crazy exs of Christian’s who show up, one threatens Ana with a gun in her apartment and the other is Kim Basinger.

Dakota and Jamie as Anastasia and Christian
Dakota and Jamie as Anastasia and Christian

I will give the film credit for pushing the leads to show a little more personality towards the second half.  You start to think they maybe actually don’t mind having to work together. We get more of what makes Christian tick, why he is the way he is, and his actual physical (and emotional) boundaries dropping.  There is also, after the first third of the film, less of the controlling abusive side of him, definitely something better than the first 50 Shades.

It strikes me that the sex scenes would be terribly exciting for someone who hasn’t had really good sex.  I’m sure there are plenty of you readers who have had toe curling panty melting experiences that would top these, I know I have.  All that said, the sex scenes were….fine?  I guess?

The big scene everyone was talking about from the trailer. THEY DON'T HAVE SEX IN THE SHOWER BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW HOW.
The big scene everyone was talking about from the trailer. THEY DON’T HAVE SEX IN THE SHOWER BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW HOW.

Unforgivable- during the spanking scene, the foley is terrible. THAT IS NOT WHAT A SLAP ON THE ASS SOUNDS LIKE.  “Maybe he was just warming her up”, possible, but unlikely. If he’s Mr. Pain Daddy, why don’t I ever believe a thing he does while in the Red Room or in the guise of Master?  Maybe my standards are really high with this kind of stuff, but once you’ve experienced REALLY good naked physical fun times, scenes like this become more annoying. I was promised MORE kinky fuckery in 50 Shades Darker, and it never really delivers.  Oh, ben wa balls?  Nipple clamps?  A spreader bar?  How original.

The idea of this series inspiring ‘vanilla’ folks to branch out and try new things is FANTASTIC.   Start slow, start simple, move up from there.  Find your comfort zone, if you’re so inclined. Don’t let anyone tell you your particular twist/kink isn’t ok, unless it’s actually illegal. It’s always my hope these type of films make the lifestyle more acceptable rather than slutshaming territory.  But really, educate yourself with the any number of fantastic online resources of Kink(.com) out there before thinking these films are the manual for how it’s done.

Christian begs Ana to stay with him, to not leave him alone with his thoughts.
Christian begs Ana to stay with him, to not leave him alone with his thoughts.

SCORE: 1 OUT OF 5, Will not see again unless really drunk and recording MST3K track

As I said, 50 Shades Darker *is* better than 50 Shades Of Grey, the barely there script giving the leads time to breathe in character a little more, and show a bit of personality between the nakedness.  Dakota DOES have an ease about her when she’s nude, that type of confidence with your EVERYTHING hanging out is admirable, and good for her for being comfortable in her own skin to do it. The ending is relatively happy,  and I can understand how the average person MIGHT see this as a good film to take their darling(s) to for Valentines Day.  It just isn’t my cup of whisky laced tea.

50 Shades Darker opens worldwide on Friday, February 10th 2017.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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