The uninspiring, unimaginative and unsexy expectations audiences set following Fifty Shades of Grey have unsurprisingly been met in this second instalment to the Fifty Shades trilogy. James Foley’s Fifty Shades Darker is a continuation of the first film’s sketchy plotline which serves only to link the film’s underwhelming and forgettable sex scenes.

Having decided that she no longer wants the BDSM relationship that Christian (Jamie Dornan) desires from her in Fifty Shades of Grey’s final scenes, the second film starts with Christian’s attempts to win Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) back. This endeavour is of course effortlessly executed by Christian – because as we all know, it takes nothing more than a candle-lit dinner to persuade a woman into sexual submission (take note Valentine’s hopefuls). From thereon in, the storyline attempts to weave Christian’s troubled childhood and sexual past into the main thrust of the film – the sex scenes.

Despite marginal improvement in the on-screen chemistry between Johnson and Dornan and the appearance of Ben Wa balls and spreader bars, the film’s sex scenes are nothing but ‘vanilla’ (as Christian describes non-BDSM relationships). The traces of glamour and seduction featured in the first instalment, under the direction of Sam Taylor-Johnson, have entirely disappeared along with the trilogy’s initial novelty. Despite the agonisingly awkward prose of the first film, it at least had a feeling of their licentious relationship being almost forbidden and therefore somewhat interesting. Having barely lasted the entirety of the first film, however, it was unsurprising that this novelty had worn off in Fifty Shades Darker.

the film’s sex scenes are nothing but vanilla

The Fifty Shades franchise is something of a double-edged sword. The blatant fantastical elements of both films can, at points, be both humorous and entertaining (at a push) when taken as a frivolous ‘naughty’ film and yet the underlying tone is very serious. There are issues of child abuse, sexual abuse, sexual consent, gender inequality and intensely problematic and unhealthy relationships.

E. L. James’s depiction of all the main male characters wanting to control ‘Ana’, not only sexually, but physically and emotionally too is worrying in itself. But what is perhaps more concerning is the casual acceptance by Ana of Christian’s complete domination and control over her life, often merely dismissing his psychotic actions as ‘not cool Christian’. Not only is it Christian’s actions but also the actions of the other two most prominent male characters in the movie.

agonisingly awkward prose

The first being Jose (Victor Rasuk), her friend from college, who decides that it’s completely normal to display massive wistful photographs of Ana, without her knowledge, at his photography exhibition. (Fair enough, his actions are based on his deep heartbreak at knowing she will never love him – but does that really make it any less disturbing?) The second being Ana’s boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who attempts to sexually assault Ana whilst at work, resulting in Christian having him fired and Jack harbouring a grudge and desire for vengeance. Thereby leaving any rational viewer asking – what seriously has to happen next in order for at least one alarm bell to ring in Anastasia’s head?

Released in time for Valentine’s Day, however, there is an obvious appeal for cinema-goers looking for something ostensibly sexy, illicit and perhaps even romantic. Fifty Shades Darker, despite being absolutely none of those things, has still managed to draw in over $100 million internationally over its opening weekend – the fourth largest ever for an 18+certificate movie. They are clearly doing something right. What it is…I have yet to figure out.


Image: Universal Pictures

Georgina, Lifestyle Editor at The Panoptic, has recently graduated with a BA in History from the University of Warwick. With her love for reading, Georgina hopes to pursue a career in publishing, whilst encouraging the expansion of the Lifestyle section. For her, lifestyle articles provide high quality content on a diverse array of topics, from light-hearted travel pieces to more thought-provoking discussion on mental health issues, there is something for everyone!

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