The Fifty Shades trilogy will be one of the largest cultural touchpoints of the 2010’s, from the worldwide domination of the book charts by E.L. James, to the anticipation and excitement of the filmed adaptations (remember when Christian Grey was going to be played by Charlie Hunnam?), there was a year or two when it seemed the entire world was waiting for the adventure of Christian and Anastasia Steele.
After a year long campaign, being told that Mr Grey will see us now, the first film was unleashed (directed by the always excellent Sam Taylor-Johnson and written by Kelly Marcel) and it was well… dry. The film was fine; the pair obviously tried as hard as they could to take the story in a different direction, make the characters a bit more three dimensional and try to evoke more emotion than a teenager discovering porn for the first time but they were held back by people around them and amongst tales from the set that Taylor-Johnson clashed with E.L. James, they were not coming back to work on the second.
The film had other issues though – Jamie Dornan who is one of the best Irish imports of the 21st century lost his beard, his accent and his body hair for the role despite them being part of the Dornan package, which aided his role in the BBC’s The Fall. He was obviously not comfortable on set and then stories came out about him and the lack of nudity he was willing to do. But to top it all off, stories about the lack of chemistry between him and co-star Dakota Johnson were not helping the production.
Fast forward to Fifty Shades Darker, Niall Leonard was hired to write the script (he is also the husband of E.L. James) and James Foley (who hasn’t directed a film since 2007’s Perfect Stranger) became the director of the second outing. For all intents and purposes, this second film is more enjoyable because it takes itself less seriously and is ultimately more trashy (never a bad thing). The actors appear to be much more comfortable with one another but this may be because the sex itself (which one has to admit is a pretty major element of the series) has been toned back and the naughty naughty S&M that ensured the books hit news headlines has been reduced to the odd spank here and there or the removal of panties at a posh do.
Any sense of drama in the film (planes crashing, relationships not working) is quickly resolved or glazed over in exchange for a sex scene or a preparation for a sex scene – in fact this film felt much more like 9 1/2 Weeks with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger who actually turns up in Fifty Shades Darker (a fabulous bit of casting). Then the film ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, which means audiences can already guess how the last story is going to go down and if Twilight is anything to go by (E.L. James originally wrote Twilight fan fiction before writing her own series of books), then we can expect a violent and trying to be emotional ending.
Anyway, Fifty Shades Darker is by no means darker then the original but it is certainly more fun, sillier and worth a visit with a few drinks and a room full of friends – imagine the drinking games you could play.