HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Fifty Shades Darker
HTS Overall Score:71
When you make a film as atrocious as “50 Shades of Grey” the only direction is up, right? WRONG! You can still go down as is evidenced by “50 Shades Darker”, an abysmal film that just spirals out of control to the point of utter unintentional hilarity. The whole series of books and movies is something of a strange anomaly in the literature/film world. They are KNOWN to be complete and utter trash by everyone who has ever read/watched them, but somehow, they seem to be almost critic proof. I had to read the books out of morbid curiosity a couple years back and I have never been so shocked and horrified in my life. Not horrified because I was offended by the obvious “smut” style of writing, but rather horrified that something this poorly written was ever published, and even the editing in the book would be enough to get most book editors fired on the spot (tons of misspellings, poor wording of sentences etc). “50 Shades of Grey” was a movie that I reviewed HERE a couple years back and I stand by my ascertation that it is a “warning” review about the dangers of trying to romanticize an obviously emotionally abusive relationship like Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey (even the names feel like they’re coming out of a bad Harlequin romance novel), but the sequel is a little more benign in THAT department. Sadly, it’s so poorly written and acted that it turns out to be an unintentional comedy, but one that just makes you feel pity for all involved.
Last time we left Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) she and Christian (Jamie Dorman) had broken up after she finally had enough of his emotionally abusive ways. Now she’s working as an editor’s assistant to a man named Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). However, Christian is not through with her just yet. Attending an art gallery function that she’s at, Christian (all disheveled and mopey looking) begs Anastasia to take him back (and using such lines as even though he needs his dom/sub relationship “he needs her more!”). No rules, no contracts, just a plain NORMAL relationship (as much as he can have normal). Thus, the two rekindle the abusive relationship that is so prevalent throughout the books. Anastasia is back with the handsome piece of muscled billionaire, and Christian is trying his best to be good. That naturally isn’t THAT much different from their previous relationship, with Ana knowing up and down that she won’t be dominated and “owned”, but acting pretty much like a subservient the entire film, except she just refuses to see it.
What makes the movie so utterly hilarious is how writer Niall Leonard and director James Foley tries to turn the erotic fiction into an erotic thriller that reminds me of a bad smut short story combined with some of those 1980s and 1990’s erotic thrillers starring Michael Douglass (except a LOT worse). Ignore the horrendously dysfunctional relationship between Ana and Christian (you could write an entire dissertation on their relationship) for a moment, and you still have so many missteps than a junior high dance. They try to weave in this stalker story with an ex “sub” named Leila (Bella Heathcote) who desperately wants to find out why SHE wasn’t good enough to tame Christian, and takes out her irrational hatred and psychotic tendencies on Ana. Don’t forget that she shows up for a few minutes at the beginning of the film and then vanishes for over an hour, only to fizzle out within another few minutes of reappearing. Basically, making her arc completely worthless to the plot.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=96858[/img]Then we have Christian’s mentor Elena (Kim Basinger, who seems to be there only to remind us that the much steamier and much better made “9 ½ Weeks” was basically “50 Shades” before “50 Shades” existed), a manipulative cougar who is not ready to let go of her little padawan just yet, culminating in this threat to destroy Ana that ends the movie on a foreboding note. Simply put, the entire movie is just a waste of space. It’s sadly even worse than the previous film, and the stilted dialog and constipated direction do nothing but make you feel pity for Dorman and Johnson as they get through their lines. Honestly, I have to give them mad props for doing as well as they did. The dialog is so bad that most actors would have a tough time getting through rehearsal without busting up laughing from what they’re saying. Both of them seem like they know what they’re doing though. Which is most likely using this like “Twilight” in an effort to shoot their careers into the public’s eye so that they can go on to bigger and better things in the future. In that respect, I have to applaud them and say they really deserve it just for the fact that they have to suffer through THREE of these films to get there.
As I said, DEFINITLEY worse than “50 Shades of Grey”, but the reason I’m rating it the same is because the movie is so unintentionally hilarious that I have to tip my hat for the added laughs. My only consolation is that the abusive nature of the two leads relationship is SLIGHTLY softened, as Christian TRIES not to be a controlling jerky who emotionally manipulates Ana AS much. It’s still revolting and drives me nuts as their relationship is being billed as a Valentine’s Day movie (at least theatrically), when it really should be used as a lesson on how NOT to get involved with predators and creepy guys.
Rated R for strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=96866[/img]“50 Shades Darker” comes to Blu-ray with a very stable and impressive looking 2.40:1 AVC encoded image. The Vancouver shot film looks impressive with the natural backdrops of Washington, and the film still retains that look of cool blues and sterile steel color grading. Much of the movie is enclosed indoors in dimly lit rooms or extravaganzas with artificial lighting giving a golden hue to the blues and steel greys (pun intended). The movie is usually very sharp, but I did notice some softness in the dimmer lit scenes, and the fine detail could suffer as a result. Black levels are strong and show little crush, but the film’s locales tend to keep the movie ever so slightly in a murky state of appearance.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=96874[/img]Universal is one of the good guys here and has placed the DTS:X object based track on both the Blu-ray AND the 4K UHD (which I sadly wasn’t able to review for you today), so no fear about losing out on the next gen audio if you haven’t upgraded to 4K UHD JUST yet. The track is well done with some great sound placement, but I was surprised at the lack of immersion for a DTS:X track. I’m so used to DTS:X and Atmos tracks being wildly immersive and using the overheads to create a bubble of sound, but this was where I was SLIGHTLY disappointed. The track is well done, has good use of the surrounds and there is NOTHING wrong with the dialog, it’s just the directional usage of the DTS:X track was not that impressive. The movie really sounded like your average 5.1 or 7.1 tracks as the overheads really didn’t get engaged at all, and the surrounds were basically used for ambient background noises. It’s an excellent track by all standards, but just didn’t make use of the full potential that DTS:X has to give by sound design alone.
• A Darker Direction – Director James Foley explains how his vision had to meet with fans' expectations. (Blu-ray exclusive)
• New Threats – An introduction to some new, dark and threatening characters, including Jack Hyde, Leila and, of course, Elena Lincoln – aka Mrs. Robinson!(Blu-ray exclusive)
• The Masquerade – This featurette about one of the film's most iconic scenes — the masquerade benefit event at Grey Mansion — explores the production design and costumes and goes behind-the-scenes with the filmmakers and main cast members.(Blu-ray exclusive)
• Intimate With Darker – An intense look and discussion about the intimate, sensual and provocative world of Fifty Shades Darker, including a visit to the Red Room and, of course, the new "toys!" (Blu-ray exclusive)
• Deleted Scenes
• A Tease to Fifty Shades Freed – A tease to the next Fifty Shades film.
• Writing Darker – Author E.L. James and screenwriter Niall Leonard trace back the history of the book and introduce viewers to the much darker story and its adaptation to the big screen.
• Dark Reunion – The filmmakers and cast members discuss being reunited for this second film, and where we find Ana, Christian and their friends.
“50 Shades Darker” is not anything I can recommend in any way. I’m no prude, and the nudity and sex in the film is NOT that explicit (I’ve seen a lot worse in some horror movies, which this technically could be described as if you think about it), but the horribly dysfunctional relationship between Ana and Christian is enough to turn any sane person’s stomach, and the incredibly inept and abysmal acting, writing AND directing make for one of the worst films I’ve ever seen from a major motion picture studio. Audio and video are very impressive, and the extras are pretty decent, but there is nothing that save this train wreck except using it for a bad movie night where you can make a drinking game out if. No, just no, RUN!
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dorman, Eric Johnson
Directed by: James Foley
Written by: Niall Leonard (Screenplay), E.L. James (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 Core), English DTS Headphone:X, Spanish, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 132 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Buy Fifty Shades Darker On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Fifty Shades Darker On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: No, just no
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