Doubling down on the campy absurdity of its 2015 predecessor while refusing to take the disappointingly tame sex scenes to smutty new levels, Fifty Shades Darker is a staggering misfire only good for repressed housewives who might cower at the sight of actual human genitals, and those who can appreciate the film’s treasure trove of unintentional hilarity.
Following on from the first movie, billionaire hotshot Christian (Jamie Dornan) and his former lover Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) have gone their separate ways, but it’s not long before they’re brought back together. Conflict? Take your pick; there’s Ana’s creepy new boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Christian’s former lover-turned-stalker Leila (Bella Heathecote), and the mysterious older woman who took Christian’s virginity, Elena (Kim Basinger).
On the plus side, Darker is several minutes shorter than the first movie and only waits about 20 minutes to get to the sex scenes, but like the original, the rutting is enormously tame, shot in tasteful light with not even a glimpse of actual genitalia in the most boring missionary sex you’ve ever seen in your life. There’s only about 10 minutes of actual sex in the entire 118 minute run-time, which suggests the creatives honestly believe people are watching this tripe for the story.
The plot is, of course, terrible, with Darker hurling in a veritable stew of erotic thriller cliches, most hilariously a helicopter crash subplot late in the movie that lasts all of about three minutes. It is a revoltingly padded movie that does little in the way of character development or general intrigue but just piles on scene after scene of badly-written “romantic” dialogue, un-arousing sex scenes and people, mostly men, being sublimely creepy.
If this film at least went for it with the nudity, played the campiness with a wink at the audience and clocked in at a tighter 100 minutes, it’d be much easier to forgive the overall low-effort tawdriness of the product. Still, the target audience knows exactly what to expect after last time, with a dollop more absurdity to justify the fact that there’s now two of these films.
If you’re so inclined, stay for the first few minutes of the credits, as you’ll get a sneak peak at next year’s hopefully final entry, Fifty Shades Freed.
Fifty Shades Darker is in cinemas now