March 1, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker Deserves a Little More Punishment

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When I went to see the first Fifty Shades movie (I’ll admit I went alone; not many people in the theater at 10 am on a Tuesday) I was expecting a kinky two-hour experience of escapism from my otherwise unspectacular life. I was sorely disappointed.

My name is Nick Smith and I’m extremely vanilla in almost every aspect of my life. I eat the same things couple things every day, I go to church on Sundays, I even color code the clothes in my closet.

Unbelievably, the first movie bored me. What I thought could have been one of the more intriguing films of the year (though not the best) lulled me to sleep. That was not a joke: I went to 50 Shades of Grey by myself on a Tuesday morning and fell asleep in my seat. I can only imagine how that must’ve looked to the lone middle-aged couple in the theater.

Unfortunately, though, I didn’t fall asleep this time, Fifty Shades Darker suffers from the same issue that plagued the first film: it fails to hit the right stride between pornography and plot. I simply didn’t enjoy it. This film jerks the audience back and forth from forced plot development to dissatisfying pornographic scene with little regard for continuity or legitimate character development.

Without its whole freaky sex thing, this absurdly successful franchise is nothing more than a particularly terrible love story. I left the theater bewildered as to how the female lead, Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson, who, to be fair, does a decent job), could still be drawn to a man who admittedly gets off on inflicting pain on his women. Just move on!

Additionally, one of the main conflicts in the film is Anastasia wrestling with some of the previous women in Christian Grey’s life (Christian Grey being the franchise’s titular love interest played by Jamie Dornan). Though I suppose Eloise Mumford’s returning Kate character works decently, Bella Heathcote’s Leila did not. Her entire character arc did nothing to further capture my interest.

It’s never a good sign when I walk out of a movie and the most positive thing I can say about it is that it had a high production budget. The film itself, though riddled with problems, is quite glamorous. The camera work is beautiful, the sets and clothing are put together well and the soundtrack is actually awesome (I Don’t Wanna Live Forever oozes sex appeal).

Despite every one of my earlier complaints, my biggest gripe is this: after a couple days of letting this movie dance around in my head, I still can’t quite tell you who it was made for.

It’s definitely not for kids. Though I found what this movie showed us soft, anyone under 15 should be barred from the theater.

It’s not for the conservative and faint of heart (I’m talking about the elderly here). This film’s idea of romance is an insult to the word “romance” itself.

It’s not for men either really. The sex is a yawn and the music in this film isn’t going to cut it. Not only that, but both of the leading men, Christian and Jack Hyde (a newcomer potential love interest), are monsters. I’ve already discussed Christian (who I doubt is very religious), and Jack goes from charming suitor to aggressive sexual harasser in a matter of minutes.

I’d assume if I told someone in the street I couldn’t decide what demographic Fifty Shades Darker was made for, they’d scoff at me. Clearly, this film is made for 18 to 24-year-old women.

But is it?

50 Shades Darker is anything but empowering. Anastasia finds herself under the thumb of two men, one who tries to rape her and the other who needs to beat her. Unable to escape the feelings she acquired Christian in the first film, Anastasia continually folds on resolution after resolution, only finally standing up for herself to a small degree near the end of the movie.

I haven’t read these books. I don’t plan to. That said, the only way I can see this franchise turning itself around is if the final installment actually delivers a somewhat girl-positive message. Based merely on the 2018 flick’s title, Fifty Shades Freed, this seems likely, perhaps suggesting either Christian will exorcise his demons once and for all or that Anastasia will finally walk out for good, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Nick Smith is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]