Although it can’t entirely resolve problems with the original source material – the EL James’ novels based on the abusive relationship between publisher’s assistant Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson) and wealthy sadist Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) – the second film is certainly an improvement on the first.
Fifty Shades Darker is richer in story-telling, with the plot bringing in three external threats to Anastasia and Christian’s second attempt at a relationship: there’s Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), the older woman who introduced Christian to the world of dominants and submissives at just 15 years old; Leila (played by Australian Bella Heathcote), the mentally unstable ex, and Anna’s new boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson).
Lives are at stake, and it makes for far more interesting tension than the “will she or won’t she sign the BDSM contract?” plotline in Fifty Shades of Grey. This time, the premise is: No Rules, No Punishments, No Secrets.
There is also more character development (although it could be better). Fifty Shades Darker sees Christian becoming more fun, open and compromising; Anna shakes some of her pliant demeanour to show a more assertive and confident side (while still fighting Christian for control – and losing the small battles as often as she wins).
The lines of consent are once again blurred and sometimes destroyed. But surprisingly, it is not Christian who is the worst offender.
The ridiculously exorbitant gifts, glamorous locations and thrilling costumes – especially at the extravagant masquerade ball – don’t compensate for the many awkward interactions, poorly timed scenes and unrealistic portrayals (such as Anna’s new job at a book publishing company) which serve the erotic and capitalistic fantasy.
But there are also plenty of jokes, steamy sex scenes featuring the same elegance of the first movie, and a moment or two of real emotion. If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll likely enjoy the next instalment in the series.
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