Mar-10-2017

Reel Snippet – Fifty Shades Darker

Summary: Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has gotten a nice job at a firm in Seattle and everything seems to be stable and vanilla. But stable and vanilla doesn’t last because Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) has come back into her life and wants to “renegotiate terms.” Given that Anastasia was scared off by how deep his bondage and domination tastes went, she cautiously agrees, but has more stringent limits than last time. Despite that, everything seems to be going well until obstacles start hitting en masse, including Anastasia’s lecherous boss Jack (Eric Johnson) trying to take advantage of her, an old sub of Christian’s (Bella Heathcote) that starts stalking them, and the woman who introduced Grey to BDSM (Kim Basinger) who wants to jealously sabotage their relationship. All this and more make Anastasia question whether Christian’s love is really worth it…

Review: Fifty Shades Darker brought out… conflicting emotions in me. On the one hand, it wasn’t the cinematic cancer I thought it would be, but boy, did it try my patience. It’s one of those movies where I don’t exactly know how to feel about it, but I’m leaning hard towards “this sucks.” But there’s only so much I can say in one paragraph, so let’s get into further details.

Let’s start off with the positives, which surprise me that they even exist. The director, who directed a string of critical stinkers (as well as Glengarry, Glen Ross), somehow managed to get decent chemistry going between the two leads, adding some much needed steaminess to the sex scenes. The movie also manages to dial back quite a few of Christian Grey’s creepier tendencies or at the very least it tries. In fact, the movie seems to give a small damn about what Anastasia wants, as she’s the one that calls out Grey for his possessiveness and maintains a small bit of agency. In fact, with a bit of reworking, this could be a very compelling film about a man with severe emotional damage, maybe even autism, who simply doesn’t know the proper way to communicate and express himself while the woman of his dreams helps guide him through his issues.

Good stuff’s out of the way? Good. Let’s talk garbage.

Like the first film, this movie has practically zero plot and shite pacing. At least the first Fifty Shades had the matter of the contract to bind everything together. The plot here meanders around aimlessly like a concussed border collie, at least when it’s not stopping dead for love-making scenes and montages with a constant pop soundtrack underscoring it. Seriously, it’s littered with them. I remember thinking to myself that the The Room was more restrained than this movie, something I never thought was even possible. The credits say Danny Elfman did the score, which surprises me because I can’t remember a single music piece that wasn’t some kind of existing song. I can only imagine his contributions were made by his face pressing against the keyboard when he fell asleep after watching the movie.

What little plot there is is scattered about because the movie has decided to have three different antagonists in what I shall now start calling “Spider-Man 3 Syndrome.” Actually, that’s unfair… Spider-Man 3 knew how to balance the villains much better. Here, the focus rotates amongst the three obstacles – first it focuses on Anastasia’s lecherous boss, then to Christian’s obsessed ex, then to the woman who sexually abused Christian when he was young, then rinse and repeat. Not to mention the other random crap that takes up time, like the non-sequiter of a plot line where Christian gets in a helicopter crash, people wonder if he’s still alive, and then ten minutes later he shows up fine. There was no point to that, especially since Anastasia had already agreed to marry him.

Oh yeah, the two decide to get married. There’s nothing indicating the passage of time either, so it looks and feels like they’ve only been together a handful of days after getting back together. Most Disney romances don’t feel this rushed! I’m guessing this romance is supposed to be the load bearing plot point that holds the movie together. While the two have much better chemistry than before, the fact remains that I don’t want these two to get together! Both of them have such opposing ideals of right and wrong, as well as behavior and frames of mind, that any long term relationship would crumble in the real world, or at least be uncomfortably rocky.

This, of course, brings me to the biggest plot hole of the entire series. I realized it a good portion through the movie, but it really sticks with me. If Christian has enough money to just give out thirty thousand dollars and buy companies and airlines on a whim…

WHY DOESN’T HE PAY FOR THERAPY?!?!?!

This one question throws the whole series’ legitimacy (what little it had) into question and yet no one seems to bring it up. Christian has Bruce Wayne levels of wealth and possesses enough awareness to know that part of his state of mind is unhealthy, yet seeks no help or makes any effort to fix himself. There’s only one reason for this: to feed into the self-insert fantasy of the female viewer that they can be the one to “fix” and “save” him. Because that’s a great reason to enter a relationship. Also, it seems like the movie’s implying that his kinkiness is a result of abuse as a child – i.e.: a trauma or scar – and if that’s the case, get bent. The BDSM community deserves more respect than this slander.

Now the moment of truth: is this better than the original? I honestly have no idea. Unlike the last one, I can understand why someone would watch this, since it provides a sort of escapism of being swept away by some billionaire with the promise of steamy, kinky sex*. But a lot of the stuff is suspect and maybe contains an unintentionally creepy undertone. On top of that, it’s put together so choppily, it looks like they condensed an entire season of a TV show into a theatrical runtime. So that’s a point against it — for all that could be said about the previous film, at least one of them wasn’t “this feels like The Last Airbender.” You should definitely avoid seeing it in theaters, but it might be worth viewing either under the lens of a few stiff drinks or as a study seminar of aliens trying to recreate the filmmaking of “the hu-mans.”

*On a side note, it’s kinda weird that the male fantasy seems to be a power trip or a one-man army type deal while the female fantasy seems to be getting swept away by someone and having all the responsibilities taken care of. It’s really… weird.

Fun Tidbit: The screenwriter for this movie, Niall Leonard, is the husband of E.L. James, who wrote the original Fifty Shades books. I want to say, “that explains a lot,” but honestly I don’t know if it does…


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