While Christian (Jamie Dornan) wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her.
Considering that Fifty Shades Of Grey made an obscene amount of money at the international box-office, thanks in large part to Jamie Dornan's abdominals and repressed sexuality in general, it's little wonder that there's not one but two sequels to contend with. Otherwise, Fifty Shades Darker would be consigned to the dustheap of history and never spoken of again, other than to comment how laughably shit the book was.
That's half the charm of Fifty Shades Darker; just how laughably shit it all is. The film opens with a Traumatic Flashback™ that portends to something deeper in the story. Does it matter? Absolutely not, because you're too busy watching highly-paid actors rub against each other to commercial pop music. The two sex dolls - that's Christian and Anastasia - meet at a gallery where, no joke, there's Instagram photos of Anastasia everywhere and Christian's just bought them all. Why? "Because I don't like people looking at you." Well, at least they're starting as they mean to go on with the hollow, vapid praise of wealth and the stalker-lite dialogue.
In the first one, you could at least respect the fact that everyone was trying to take it seriously - or, at the very least, come at the material with a sense of earnestness. Not that it deserved it, mind, but it was clear that Sam Taylor-Johnson was doing her best to elevate the material. Here, however, it's journeyman director James Foley going through the motions without a bit of levity or art to the situation. He plants the camera, cuts the music over the carefully choreographed sex scenes and then it's on to the next scene.
In a lot of ways, the film takes the form of a porn film. Like clockwork, there's a sex scene approximately every ten to fifteen minutes or so and the intermingling scenes are just running the clock out until we get to the next one. These scenes, just like porn, are completely laughable in their tone and do nothing to help in any way. It's all just filler.
One of these involves him taking her to a hair salon - because boyfriends do that, of course - and another involves a sexual harassment from her boss that looks like it was pulled from a training video on sexual harassment. Another one involves Christian, covered in soot and blood, walking away from a helicopter crash and arriving at his apartment so he can wear the face off Anastasia again.
The sex scenes, as previously mentioned, are all soundtracked to commercially-friendly pop artists. These are all carefully choreographed, of course, but there's a few that truly are comical in nature. One involves Ana Steele being finger-blasted in an elevator whilst another sees Christian attach a sort of extending mop stick to her legs for no other reason other than to keep her legs open. It might get the odd titter or nervous laughter from the audience, but there is nothing remarkable about any of these scenes. It manages to make sex boring and that takes effort.
Right down the cast list, the performances are universally terrible. Jamie Dornan is going through the motions, Dakota Johnson has all the depth of a puddle, Kim Basinger evaporates into scenes and then disappears, Rita Ora (remember her?) is in there for some reason, and you've got Sexual Harassment Boss - who turns up in the final scene of the film like a character from Dallas that'll eventually play in the threequel. The dialogue and its delivery is reminiscent of the very worst teledramas.
When you come right down to it, Fifty Shades Darker is the very quintessence of contractually obligated sequeldom. The directing is contractually obligated, the performances are contractually obligated, the soundtrack is chosen by methodical algorithm. At least the first one was trying to do something with it. This, on the other hand, is just here for the money.
Vapid and unremarkable shit. It'll make silly money at the box office, of course, so this review has all been for naught. See it, don't see it - who cares. The threequel's already on the way.