The people behind this series wouldn’t know kinky if it strapped them to a bed, gagged them and spanked them with a wooden paddle.
A short while after Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) left him for his controlling, sadistic behaviour, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) forces himself back into her life, promising no more rules or punishments if the two resume their relationship. Ana is resistant at first, but is soon seduced back into his world of high-class luxury, extravagant recreation, and of course submissive sexual relations. But trouble is always brewing in paradise, and soon re-emerging figures from Christian’s past and Christian’s own struggle to contain his violent nature threaten the reconvened relationship.
The second “highly-anticipated” adaptation of E.L. James’ poorly-written erotica for the menopausal is, as anyone with half a brain would expect, just as bad, if not worse than its moronic predecessor Fifty Shades of Grey. And yet the titillating premise, once famous for coaxing a blush or a giggle out of the schoolgirl in everyone, has now become an unstoppable money-printing force like the sparkly-vampire nonsense from which it (unsurprisingly) drew inspiration.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return to their acting graveyard, and their chemistry is still as absent as their sense of dignity must have been when they signed on to these roles. But the lack of spark really stems from the greater problem that these are non-characters they’re forced to inhabit, and try as they might, they just can’t make them interesting. Johnson gets off easy (heh); being the surrogate role for audiences to imagine themselves in, she just has to look doe-eyed, ask questions and do whatever Christian says. Still, it’s disappointing to see her back in this void of charisma, undoing the chops she proved herself capable of in A Bigger Splash and Black Mass.
Dornan, however, is forced to embody an incredibly exaggerated and unrealistic female fantasy, and once again this delusion comes at the expense of any shred of consistency and believability to his character. In an embarrassing attempt to give reason to his sadistic side, we’re shown flashbacks of him witnessing his crack-addict mother dying as a boy (huh?). It’s as clear as mud. One minute he’s stalking Ana and threatening any guy who looks twice at her, the next he’s taking her on boat rides and stuffing metal pleasure balls inside her. It’s so ridiculous he may as well have “damaged” tattooed across his forehead.
Between the eye-rolling and, again, much-too-tame sex scenes, the rest of the overly long runtime is padded out with melodrama that even the least subtle daytime soap opera would shake its head at. The bland script and dialogue soon segue from unintentionally hilarious to utterly mundane; never once delivering the “Darker” promised by the title.
This series knows it has a fan base, and there’s nothing on this earth that will be able to stop it from being a box office smash. It’s peculiar; in a world now so adamant on pushing strong female characters and empowering women and their independence, something’s amiss when the most popular series for women fantasizes a rich, handsome man to take care of every need and desire, and have total authority and control over everything – and that extends much further than just the bedroom. It begs the question… what do women want, really?
Fifty Shades Darker is available in Australian cinemas from February 9th
Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017