Indiana Daily Student

"50 Shades" delivers on sex, but sacrifices story

FIFTY SHADES DARKER, l-r: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, 2017. ph: Doane Gregory/
FIFTY SHADES DARKER, l-r: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, 2017. ph: Doane Gregory/

"50 Shades Darker" may have been marketed as a Valentine's Day weekend romance, but viewers who expected hearts and flowers may leave unsatisfied. 

The movie tried to weave three separate story lines into the love story between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. These stories all had extremely high stakes but were resolved too quickly to add anything meaningful to the film. In the end, the makers of "50 Shades of Darker" needed to focus more on the storytelling in between the sex scenes.

“50 Shades of Grey” was the first book in an erotic romance trilogy written by E.L. James. In 2015, the first movie adaptation came out on Valentine’s Day weekend and convinced audiences everywhere to fall in love with the kinky love story between Christian and Anastasia. The second installment sees the couple resuming their relationship with a new focus on communication and equality between partners.

While parts of the second film may work for people, it wasn't my cup of tea. A popular view of the movies is that they are meant to provide a view into a romantic and sexual BDSM relationship.

However, a movie company can’t simply put soft porn on the screen with no strong connecting plot. The sex scenes were fun and featured much better chemistry between the movie's leads, but these had trouble standing on their own when surrounded by such incoherent story telling. 

Clearly, the audiences were not there for the stories or more people would’ve left extremely disappointed.

The first of three half-baked story lines sees Christian's ex-girlfriend coming into Anastasia's apartment with a gun in attempt to resume her relationship with Christian. The scene was clearly intended to add emotional conflict and heighten the stakes of this relationship. However, it's resolved quickly and easily. The armed intruder causes a slight bump in the couple's relationship, but seems to only be there to set up a reason for the following sex scene.

Another problem the movie addresses is male domination of submissive women to create a more sexually pleasing atmosphere. Anastasia's boss comes onto her aggressively in this movie, after which she runs to Christian, who finds a way to fire the boss. That story line could have added tension throughout the movie or added layers to the film's discourse about bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, or BDSM, relationships, but it's pretty much resolved from that point forward. The filmmakers again raise the stakes high but let them down easily with a sex scene right afterward.

There is one more moment of tragedy later in the story when the audience may think for about three minutes that the characters will never bounce back. A quick scene change occurs where Christian is in a helicopter, hurtling toward the ground after an apparent explosion. This scene lasts for about 30 seconds, then switches to a scene of his family crying at his apartment. In yet another cheap bid to create and resolve emotional tension, Christian walks through the door a mere 10 seconds later with only a scratch on his head. Once again, Christian and Anastasia have sex after a quickly resolved conflict that hasn't moved the characters forward at all.

All of these story lines had very short rising action and a quick and intense climax and left room for the next sex scene just like any good porno. "50 Shades Darker" wasn’t a quality film, but considering the occasion and target audience, the filmmakers did fulfill their obligation to deliver on the book's more sensual aspects.  

If you came for a movie with average acting, underwhelming story lines and a lot of soft porn, this is the movie for you.

Grade: B

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