The second instalment in EL James’s erotic thriller trilogy has premiered in London with the big screen adaptation of Fifty Shades Darker.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson are back in the starring roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele for the sequel to their 2015 debuts in the franchise.
Here is what Damon Smith, Press Association Film Editor, thought:
After the polite slap of Fifty Shades Of Grey comes the unintentionally hilarious tickle of a softcore sequel, dredged from the frothy melodrama of EL James’s literary threesome.
Pantomime villainy bumps and grinds against clunky plotting and a miasma of softly lit sex scenes devoid of any erotic charge despite the wanton lip-biting of actress Dakota Johnson.
While the first film flaunted its fake feminist credentials with director Sam Taylor-Johnson wielding the riding crop and screenwriter Kelly Marcel tightening the Red Room’s leather straps, Fifty Shades Darker is dominated by men.
James Foley slips back in the director’s harness after a 10-year hiatus alongside author James’s husband, Niall Leonard, who assumes the screenwriter’s position and tightly handcuffs himself to the source material.
Tellingly, the sequel’s best moment is secondhand – a cute word-for-word tribute to Johnson’s mother, Melanie Griffith, and her Oscar-nominated role in Working Girl.
Pounding music underscores the orgy of luxury product placements – seductive stemware, sheen designer dresses – and every breathless coupling.
Ana forgoes another knee-trembling ride on Christian’s chopper and boards his yacht instead to the high-pitched whimpers of Taylor Swift and Zayn Malik professing, “Baby, baby, I feel crazy!”
It’s a wild exaggeration. The sequel isn’t a single shade darker, grimier or indeed sexier, let alone 50.
Anastasia (Johnson) has turned her back on Seattle’s youngest billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), to clamber the career ladder under leering fiction editor, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson).
It’s not long before crestfallen Christian pleads his case.
“I want to renegotiate terms,” he growls.
With the minimum resistance, Ana agrees.
“No rules, no punishments… and no more secrets,” she purrs naively.
Soon after, at a masquerade ball hosted by Christian’s parents (Andrew Airlie, Marcia Gay Harden), Ana has her first run-in with Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), the woman who seduced Christian aged 15.
Meanwhile, Ana’s boss Jack turns out to be a glowering poster boy for sexual harassment and one of Christian’s former submissives (Bella Heathcote) stalks her former master.
Fifty Shades Darker begs tantalising questions.
How many cans of furniture polish does Christian’s housekeeper Mrs Jones (Fay Masterson) get through each day to maintain that dust- and streak-free shine on every surface in his cavernous apartment?
How does the brooding hero emerge from a high-speed brush with death without a scratch or bruise on that perfectly stubbled face?
The interplay between dominant and submissive is still muddled and Ana’s contradictory nature tests our patience.
In one breath, she scolds Christian for his possessiveness (“This isn’t a relationship, it’s ownership”) and in the next, she’s pleading with him to dust off his toys.
Only one sequence involving jiggle balls delivers pleasure to us and her.
A 10-second fake orgasm of scenes from the giddy climax, Fifty Shades Freed, during the end credits is like everything else: a big tease.