BEIRUT: "No more rules. No more punishments. No more secrets," a phrase that Anastasia Steele, dully played by Dakota Johnson, utters in the opening moments of 50 Shades Darker, the sequel to last year's disastrous 50 Shades of Grey.
Unlike its predecessor, this new entry in the 50 Shades Trilogy is helmed by a male director by the name of James Foley, yet this did not bring any major improvement.
The film picks up what seems to be a few months after the events of Grey, Anastasia now working for a book publisher, and Christian begging her to return to him, even going as far as willing to "renegotiate terms".
"I was trying to be romantic but you distracted me with your kinky f---ckery."
The narrative unnecessarily stretched out to fill a two-hour film, feels more like a telenovela than a compelling romantic drama, and this is a shame considering the God-send that is the character of Christian Grey, a layered and tortured soul who happens to be a sadist.
Yet, instead of bringing these complexities into the foreground, the screenplay offers some of the worst dialogue that would give George Lucas's Star Wars Episode II dialogue a run for its money.
"I don't like sand... it gets in places", suddenly doesn't sound so bad.
Thematically, the film paraded itself as giving Anastasia power, however, she still came off as a slightly less whiny Bella Swan.
Knowing fully well she is not capable of being a submissive, Anastasia struggles with whether she wants to be with Christian throughout the entirety of the film. It's an on-again-off-again that is a disgrace to true romance.
If Christian Grey is a sadist, Anastasia Steele is a masochist – forming a perfect match.
"I'm not a dominant. I'm a sadist."
Two major actors make their appearance in this sequel: Kim Basinger, plays the woman who is the cause of Christian's sexual behavior, and Marcia Gay Harden, plays Christian's adoptive mother.
One would think with two powerhouses like these, the film would include some catfight scenes with fantastic repartee à la Victoria Grayson vs. Emily Thorne, or Cookie Lyon vs. Anika Calhoun. Alas, the only scene where the two face-off is one where Harden tells Basinger to leave the house and never come close to any of her children.
James Foley's visual language is beyond lackluster and doesn't feel at all cinematic. Repeating the most clichéd visual cues rendering his two leads shirtless for the majority of the film with no clear reasoning.
The nudity and the sex scenes continue to feel contrived and what should be steamy and somewhat appeasing to the audience's sexual nature, ends up being random and at times even a bore.
Isn't the audience supposed to be turned on by this?
"I don't know whether to worship at your feet or spank you."
Though there are a few scenes where both Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan's chemistry shines it is not enough to carry this bland feature.
The most unfortunate part of this entire film is the terrible attempt at suspense.
From the creepy waif-like ex-sub to Christian's almost-no-audience-member-believed-it death, neither director James Foley nor screenwriter Niall Leonard gave the narrative any stakes that would make anyone care.
Both the novel and the adaptation seem to be catering to an ever-growing audience that is into cheap thrills and the ability to feel naughty, even though this film was more "vanilla" than a Game of Thrones episode.
This film fails on dominating it's more than submissive viewers and ends up in the pile of films that audiences will be ashamed to admit they witnessed.
Annahar's film rating:
Alan Mehanna is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. He received his MFA in Screenwriting from Full Sail University. He is also a film instructor at the American University of Science and Technology and Antonine University.
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