What the critics are saying: ‘Dumber’ and ‘travesty’ are the words being used to describe the followup to 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'
Let’s face it, if you are determined to see the Seattle-set “Fifty Shades Darker,” about the young Anastasia Steele and her billionaire, dominant love interest Christian Grey, these reviews won’t talk you out of it.
If, on the other hand, you are debating whether it’s worth your time and money to see the movie starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, here’s what the critics have to say:
Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times is not a fan, giving it one star out of four and proposing the alternate title of “Deeply Clueless Woman Meets Deeply Damaged Man, Round Two.”
“It’s not a terribly good idea to base a movie on a book in which almost nothing happens for 500 pages, but that’s what we have here: Ana and Christian (Jamie Dornan, clearly having no fun at all) consummate their relationship, if that’s what you want to call it, in a variety of artfully lit rooms. Ana and Christian say words at each other (and, believe me, that’s exactly how James Foley directs it). Ana and Christian consummate some more, with accessories. Christian tells Ana that he is compelled to abuse women, because he is so very damaged, and then allows Ana to touch his chest and gives her a big diamond. All is forgiven! Love conquers all! Has anyone checked Ana for a pulse?”
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Rafer Guzmán of Newsday gave the film zero stars, called it “breathtakingly, pulse-poundingly bad” and said it’s so terrible, you’ll whip yourself for going.
“The year’s first true cinematic travesty has arrived with ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ based on the second novel in E.L. James’ trilogy of sadomasochistic romances. An abusive-relationship fantasy about a wide-eyed young innocent and the handsome billionaire who yearns to smack her, this sequel manages the neat trick of being more explicit yet less erotic and far goofier than 2015’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ From its dominant top to its submissive bottom, it’s utterly ridiculous.”
John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter says the movie is misnamed as it’s far lighter fare than the original.
“”Darker”? James Foley’s ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ the second big-screen outing adapting E.L. James’s bestselling S&M fairy tale, goes rather the other direction, replacing most of the first installment’s talk of master/servant dynamics and contractually-delineated sex play with more lovey-dovey hoohah than most self-respecting rom-coms are willing to deliver. Taking the series over from Sam Taylor-Johnson, whose 2015 ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ earned jeers alongside its $570-mil worldwide haul, Foley has the job of introducing some external threats to the unlikely coupling of Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey. But he and screenwriter Niall Leonard can hardly milk enough novelty out of these new villains to win back fans who felt burned by the first film. A concluding installment is already en route; expect diminishing returns every Valentine’s Day.”
Tom Gliatto of People Magazine says the movie is possibly dumber than its predecessor.
“‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is possibly worse, and dumber, than 2015’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ or possibly not. Determining the degree of plus or minus here is pretty much the same as trying to define the point at which a dominant-submissive could be said to be really dominant or really submissive. You’re just jumping through hoops — spiked, leather hoops.”
On the other hand, Guy Lodge from Variety finds something to like in the “serviceable, lip-glossed” film’s cinematography and soundtrack.
“For all its structural and psychological deficiencies, it’s hard not to enjoy “Fifty Shades Darker” on its own lusciously limited terms. Rebounding from the joylessly lurid genre fug of 2007’s misbegotten “Perfect Stranger,” Foley’s return to the big screen shows some of his velvety class as a trash stylist. He doesn’t approach the plentiful sex scenes, in particular, with quite as much crisp ingenuity as Taylor-Johnson did, but with cinematographer John Schwartzman slathering on the satin finish by the bucketful, they more than suffice as coffee-table titillation. If anything, the film is most seductive outside of either the bedroom or the Red Room, when it succumbs to the sheer lifestyle porn of overly art-directed Venetian parties and platinum Monique Lhuillier gowns. A sweepingly shot yachting sequence may be a shameless rehash of the first film’s vertiginous flying hijinks, but it’s irresistible all the same, scored as it is to the creamy pop perfection of Taylor Swift and Zayn Malik’s ‘I Don’t Want to Live Forever’ — first cut among equals on a savvy background playlist that also includes Halsey, Ora and the ubiquitous Sia.”
Although Alonso Duralde of The Wrap could not endorse the flick, he did find a nice thing or two to say about how the characters in this follow up at least appear to be enjoying their physical interactions more than they did in the first go round.
“Why should adult female audiences be deprived a vicarious shot at career advancement, gorgeous lingerie and a billionaire underwear model…. However, if you think that those same audiences also deserve characters with any depth and plotting that relies upon the presence of multi-dimensional human beings, ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ falls short. It’s nice that the two photogenic leads are treating sex like a pleasurable activity rather than an onerous chore in this second entry, but overall, the film plays like an un-asked-for collaboration between the Hallmark and Playboy Channels.”