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Film Review: Throwing some shade on “Fifty Shades Darker”

Grade: D

With absolutely no expectations to uphold, the newest adaptation of author E.L. James’ erotic novel trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” leaves nothing to the imagination in more ways than one. Since its premiere in February of 2015, the trilogy has undoubtedly been one of the boldest series on the market. But the film adaptation of James’ striking bestseller still had a lot to prove after its first movie. “Fifty Shades Darker,” the second film of the series, picks up where the first one left off, even though some wish they just scrapped the series altogether after its introduction. Unfortunately for the team behind this latest offering, sticking to just reading the novels is a far better choice than going to see this flick for a horrendously large number of reasons. But if you did promise your significant other on Valentine’s Day that you would take them to see it, a word to the wise: leave the kids at home. Or better yet, just stay home.

The film picks up on the lives of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) after their recent break up. Grey falls in love with Anastasia and cannot let the likes of her new boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), an editor at Seattle Independent Publishing, get the best of his interests in her. The happenings with Christian’s former dominant, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) — the one who introduced him to BDSM — also made for a select few interesting plot twists. In the end, everything seems to end up all “hunky-dory” — but with an unexpected surprise in store.

But despite a limited number of exciting twists sprinkled throughout, this film fell victim to one of its predecessor’s biggest failings: the acting. If you examine the character credits online, none of the actors are really recognizable, or, let’s just say, none of them are Hollywood A-listers. Besides Dornan and Johnson, of course. Additionally, Dornan and Johnson only made names for themselves through starring roles in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy — barring some minor roles in other films.

One could suggest that the nature of the story keeps some of the reputable actors at bay, because they do not want to be associated with such a sexually-explicit movie. Then again, credit must be given where credit is due, because these are both demanding roles. Anastasia’s character demands a certain kind of paleness and innocence, which Johnson tries to give but ultimately comes up short. Dornan, who has less big ticket experience than Johnson despite his age, captures the shadiness and disabling nature of Christian effectively, but his character would honestly be better if it were written by Ian Fleming.

The young adult fiction genre has obviously been very successful in recent years in multi-part formats — and has been dominating younger audiences worldwide. Although “The Divergent Series” is a monstrosity to young adult fiction, “The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner” series’ have gathered widespread acclaim for their rich stories and accurate adaptations. The reason why the “Fifty Shades of Grey” may have not received such success is because it panders to a very specific audience (after all, it is rated R) and not to mention, it’s a little hard to digest. If the books catered to young adult readers, it may have been more successful, but since the tone they took was dark and erotic, it may have scared some people away from the theaters when they decided to produce movies.

The sad thing is that Dornan and Johnson may find this unforgiving series hard to shake off after the finale “Fifty Shades Freed,” which is expected to debut next February. Both movies so far have waltzed into the black at the box office despite their daunting challenges with filmmaking and marketing. Still, E.L. James’ series may have best been left for print, where readers imaginations can run wild with images of eroticism and salaciousness. “Fifty Shades Darker” was another disappointment that has scarred the series’ legacy, so keep your finger crossed for the conclusion.

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