I wasn’t a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, and its sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, is worse. Based on the trilogy of zillion-selling (it’s actually around 125 million and counting) erotic novels by E.L. James, these are critic proof films, having been developed for the audience who adored the books. But after watching this one, I have to wonder if even they’ve had enough. The two leads, Jaime Dornan and Dakota Johnson aren’t the most engaging pair, and the rather vanilla sex scenes didn’t live up to the hype.
When last we saw Anastasia Steele (Johnson), she had left Christian Grey (Dornan). Predictably, that breakup doesn’t last very long. Some flowers, dinner, and a new iPhone later, and Christian woos Ana back into their relationship. But things are deeper now. Through about two minutes of flashbacks we witness Christian’s traumatic childhood, but despite all that Christian wants to love Anastasia, and Anastasia wants to love him, but she will have to help him heal…okay.
But since Fifty Shades Darker is the kind of film were problems get solved in five minutes or less, screenwriter Niall Leonard (who is also the husband of E.L. James), moves in a different direction in search of a plot, while sticking close to James often ridiculous dialogue, and dumbing Anastasia down. At times she’s the so clueless, it’s impossible to believe she could get a job at a publishing firm, let alone graduate from college. This may also be due to having a man in the director’s chair (James Foley) instead of a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson) in the director’s chair this time. Perhaps sensibilities are different.
Oscar winners Maria Gay Harden and Kim Basinger turn up briefly as Christian’s mother and her best friend, the cougar who trained him in the art of sexual kink. I thought Basinger character might add something of interest to the story, but my hopes were quickly dashed. Christian’s former submissive (Bella Heathcote) shows up as a would-be stalker, but than just backs off, like a scared cat.
For fans of the Fifty Shades series, I suppose what excitement there is still lies in the sex scenes. Here, Foley isn’t burdened by the limitations of Leonards questionable dialogue skills, and can simple give fans the softcore scenes they want. Chemistry or not, Dornan and Johnson photograph well together, and seem to enjoy their characters. At least there’s that.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this 4K presentation offers a noticeable increase in detail when compared to the 1080p Blu-ray. Hair, stubble, freckles, etc., are all on display. Textures look impressive, whether it be fabrics, clothes, or the bricks on a building. Depth is good, exhibiting a nice level of three dimensionality. Black levels are deep and inky throughout. The colors are look accurate throughout, rich and bold, darker when necessary. Faces always appear realistic. Noise and artifacts aren’t an issue.
The DTS-X Immersive Audio accurately recreates what’s happening on screen. Some moments are louder than others, a helicopter crash comes to mind, but those moments are few. Mostly, dialogue is of utmost importance, and never gets lost in other elements of the mix. Expect some LFE use when pop tunes are playing, fireworks are blasting, and a helicopter is crashing. The rear surrounds are used for ambient sounds. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available.
- In addition to the Theatrical Cut (1 hour, 58 minutes) the steamy, new Unrated Cut (2 hours, 12 minutes) is available.
- A Darker Direction (HD, 4:42) Director James Foley discusses his effort to make his vision meet with fans expectations.
- New Threats (HD, 8:54) A look at some new, potentially threatening characters, including Jack Hyde, Elena Lincoln, and more.
- The Masquerade (HD, 6:35) This featurette covers the masquerade benefit event at Grey Mansion. It explores the production design and costumes. We also go behind-the-scenes with the filmmakers and several cast members.
- Intimate with Darker (HD, 7:14) In this discussion of the intimate nature of the film, we get a look at the “Red Room,” and those involved in the film discuss distributing the sex scenes throughout
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 1:53) Two in total, with a convenient “Play All” feature.
- A Tease to Fifty Shades Freed (:53) On to the next film in the series!
- Writing Darker (HD, 3:16) Author E.L. James and screenwriter Niall Leonard trace the history of the book and introduce viewers to the much darker story and its adaptation to the big screen.
- Dark Reunion (HD, 7:58) The cast and crew discuss what it’s like to be reunited for the film, and stepping back into their roles.
- HD Code
Movie title: Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
Director(s): James Foley
Actor(s): Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan , Max Martini , Eloise Mumford , Rita Ora , Luke Grimes
Genre: Romance, Drama