‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Review – A Bizarre, Ridiculous, but Entertaining Sequel

What is Fifty Shades Darker?

The sequel to the erotic romance that took the world by storm picks up with Anastasia Steele trying to move on from her relationship with Christian Grey. But, he eventually wins her back by opening up to her in ways no one has ever been able to bring out in him. While their relationship is on the mend, Anastasia begins to learn more about Christian’s past. Unfortunately, that also means crossing paths with some of his former lovers. And the more Anastasia discovers, the more complicated Christian Grey becomes.

Is Fifty Shades Darker Good?

fifty shades darker elevator
Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) make their elevator trip a little more exciting. ...Is it getting a little hot in here?

“Good” is a tough concept to nail down with this flick. Is “entertaining” the same thing as “good?” Because Fifty Shades Darker certainly entertained me, but not always for noble reasons. The script by Niall Leonard — husband of Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James — is littered with clunky dialogue and bizarre plot beats that come across as unintentionally hilarious. My audience was howling at moments that were supposed to be taken seriously, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in that kind of mentality when you’re watching the film.

Maybe that’s because there’s a mixed message going on with Fifty Shades Darker and the series as a whole: It’s simultaneously trashy and classy in extreme ways. When the movie picks one of those approaches and sticks with it, it actually works. There are moments of romance, sensuality, and even knowing humor that really works at times. The sex scenes between Anastasia and Christian feel more fun and playful than the first film. These are two characters that enjoy their lovemaking, although it does occur in an almost predictable fashion.

But, when the film tries to be earnest with its drama, it comes across as unbearably silly. I have to return to the dialogue here because it is unbelievably tone deaf at times. Remember this infamous scene from Revenge of the Sith?

Yeah, it’s that kind of bad. Granted, there are a lot more naughty bits thrown in, but the spirit remains the same.

Probably the most disappointing element of this entry was how it was sold as more of a thriller. There are two interesting plotlines in the film. The first one is a jilted former “sub” of Christian’s that’s been stalking Anastasia. The eventual showdown between her, Anastasia, and Christian is probably the best scene in the film, but it almost feels like an afterthought. The thriller element was not followed through appropriately and is practically a D-plot in the story.

The other engaging story is the relationship between Christian and Elena (played with sinister sultriness by Kim Basinger), the woman who seduced him while he was still underage. She’s set up to be a villain but has maybe two full scenes in the entire movie. It’s a bummer because what their relationship implies is the first thing that begins to humanize Christian. We get a very brief flashback to his abusive childhood in the beginning, but that doesn’t really pay off in a meaningful way. The way he acts around Elena offers a peek at something complex, but the movie is over before it can truly explore this.

fifty shades darker kim basinger elena
The world can always use more Kim Basinger.

However, the most entertainment is mined out of a sequence when Christian experiences a helicopter crash. The crash itself is decent. But when Christian magically appears back home while the news is reporting he’s OK is like something out of a spoof film. My audience — myself included — went bananas at this moment. It was such a ridiculous sequence that might have played better on the page, but is simply uproarious on the screen.

And I can’t lie: I think I enjoyed Fifty Shades Darker more than its predecessor. It’s certainly goofier (probably not the intention of the filmmakers) and more over-the-top at times, so it will certainly satisfy people looking to laugh at the movie. But it also gives the fans what they want out of a series like this: lots of steamy sex and a glimpse at an extravagant lifestyle. Though, it would probably benefit the actors if they didn’t have to speak. I feel bad for Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan — who certainly commit to their roles — when they have to say lines that wouldn’t make the cut on a Lifetime movie. This will be a great film to watch on mute.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him.