Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018
Home / Film Reviews  / FIFTY SHADES DARKER: It’s So Bad It’s Good


With overly drawn-out scenes and a sprinkle of randomized and at times unnecessary drama, Fifty Shades Darker left much to be desired.


Adapting fan favorite book trilogies and series has become a trending movement by Hollywood to solidify audience ticket sales across multiple films. The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight and the Divergent series have all been brought to life for new and old fans of the franchises – each with mixed success. While the target audience may be different than the films previously stated, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is no exception.

Sequels within these adapted trilogies and series are typically horrible (excluding Hunger Games and Harry Potter). Divergent’s sequels have been so bad, they have made their completing film as a television movie. With its explicit content (and the fact that filming for the final movie is complete), the  Fifty Shades sequels will continue to remain on the big screen – but that doesn’t speak for the film’s quality. Fifty Shades Darker is the first sequel in the series, and while it lived up to expectations as being a horrible film – it’s so bad it’s good.

This was my least favorite of the books in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, and will probably be my least favorite film as well. With overly drawn-out scenes, a sprinkle of randomized and at times unnecessary drama, and a story-line that generally was only a tool to layout the groundwork for the next and final film, Fifty Shades Darker left much to be desired. Yet, as ridiculous as this film was, I found myself enjoying every minute, the ridiculousness of it all oddly amusing and entertaining. The audience was the best part of the film, keeping it invigorating and engaging – heightening every aspect of this film from start to finish.

Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Darker picks up only days from where Fifty Shades of Grey had left viewers two years ago. Anna (Dakota Johnson), having just ended her submissive relationship with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), is attempting to live life without him. She has embarked on a new venture, becoming a secretary at a local publishing company, and has begun to settle into the flow of single life.


source: Universal Pictures

Yet, while visiting the art exhibit of her close friend Jose (Victor Rasuk), she is confronted by Christian – who wants nothing more than to have her back. Agreeing to dinner, Anna takes the first of many steps to resurrecting their relationship – yet this time with no secrets and no punishments. From this moment, the entire plot of the film consists of Anna and Christian getting back together – intimately. While there are a few dramatic scenes consisting of a masquerade ball and the eluding of a stalking submissive haunting Christian – the film forgets for a moment that at some point every story needs dramatic plots within its story-line.

About halfway through the film, it is as though the director James Foley (replacing Sam Taylor-Johnson) and screenwriter Niall Leonard (replacing Kelly Marcel) remembered there were story-lines and plots from earlier in the film (and the book) that needed resolution and another film to finish gearing up for. The dramatized plots are rushed in favor of long drawn-out shots of Christian Grey conducting a ridiculous workout and montages of the steamy apparel Anna is now adorned with – just to name a few. Character development is also sacrificed in favor of the more steamy and risqué, with the deeper psychology and growth of Christian Grey readers enjoyed in the book being glossed over.

Stripping Down the Film

While the ridiculousness of this was so bad it was good, from a technical sense Fifty Shades Darker was nothing spectacular. Even with the changing of the guards concerning this film’s new director and new screenwriter, this film was nothing more than a continuation of a series that guaranteed an audience. With franchises such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the films continuing the series were stronger and more developed than their predecessors. Even with Fifty Shades Darker’s author, E.L. James, more involved than with the first film, it was a step down from the original – and the book.


source: Universal Pictures

The music in Fifty Shades Darker maintained the pace and movement of the film – quite literally at times. While it was lacking the smooth transitions the initial film had, the music – many of today’s hottest artists lending their vocals – gave the only solid and constant technical element to this film.

One thing that was an improvement on the first film was our leading lady. It was clear to see that Dakota Johnson has been stretching her acting chops since Fifty Shades of Grey. Her interpretation of Anastasia is deeper and more believable; she evolves with her character – Anna herself becoming more confident and a stronger character in this second film. Jamie Dornan’s interpretation of Christian was the usual brooding, dominating force, though the brief breakdowns in his character’s demeanor allowed him a bit more room to spread his acting wings – though not much. It was a shame to see Jamie Dornan become more of a sex symbol, rather than the talented actor that he is.

The Audience Experience

While Fifty Shades Darker may have been the most ridiculously bad film of the year, the best part and what made viewing the film so entertaining was the audience experience. Accompanied by one of my girlfriends, in a theater of women roughly the same age, what heightened the enjoyment was the culmination of similar reactions throughout the entire film. In one scene, Christian tries to assert his patriarchal dominance over Anna – a chorus of  “ooooooooos” ringing out throughout the theater – with one woman yelling out “oh no he didn’t!”


source: Universal Studios

It is not just the film that viewers are experiencing, but the experience of others. Typically, fan favorite films are the best at the midnight and first showings. This is because they are the truest and the most die hard of fans – and they aren’t afraid to show it. This mindset rang true for my viewing of this film, making it so difficult to actually say this was a horrible movie. Yet, experiences are why we go to the movies, whether those experiences are good, bad or cathartic – which in this case, Fifty Shades Darker delivered.


While this may be the year’s most terrible film, it was hard to hate it – whether it be the over ridiculousness that oddly brought humor and entertainment, or the immersive audience experience that overshadowed the flaws of this film. Technically, Fifty Shades Darker was nothing spectacular and a step down from the first film, yet the heightened audience experience will mask these errors, even if only for a little while, giving viewers a chance to enjoy it.

Have you seen Fifty Shades Darker? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

Fifty Shades Darker was released worldwide on February 10, 2017. For a list of all international release dates, see here.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

Stephanie Archer is 31 year old film fanatic living in Norwalk, CT, USA.

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