I never expected to consider myself a Fifty Shades fan. And yet, Fifty Shades Darker may have me convinced. I had the opportunity to attend the premiere in downtown Los Angeles last week alongside friends and avid fans who eagerly donned masquerade masks (gotta love that swag) and sang along to Taylor Swift and Zayn’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” as it played before the film. Aside from having seen Fifty Shades of Grey once, I had very little idea what I was in for – I haven’t read the books, and I’m not too familiar with the story. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised by Fifty Shades Darker – a movie that offers pure fantasy and all the feels.
Let’s start with the fantasy element. Most people know that the Fifty Shades books by E.L. James began as wildly popular Twilight fan fiction. While watching Fifty Shades Darker, I did feel like I was watching a fan fiction come to life: from fluff to angst and everything in between. Sometimes you can’t even be immediately sure what’s a dream and what’s reality. At every turn, Christian’s making an extravagant gesture like taking Ana on a private boat ride or inviting her to a glamorous masquerade ball, or doing something as simple as sending her flowers or holding her when she cries. Ana is excelling at her new career, trying on amazing lingerie, enjoying everything Christian has to offer or reminding him that he doesn’t own her. There’s truly something for every type of fantasy – not to mention plenty of drama to keep things interesting. (Hellooo, Mrs. Robinson.)
Even with all of these highs and lows, what makes Fifty Shades Darker really succeed is that for the most part, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are so many moments of humor and self-awareness, from outright jokes to Ana calling out how weird or fucked up her relationship with Christian is at times. Being able to laugh with and relate to the characters, even though their circumstances are so far from my own, really warmed me up to them – so that when the emotional moments did come, they really landed. I never thought I would be so invested in Christian and Ana’s story, but the way their relationship changes over the course of this film definitely brought me on-board.
As far as evolution from the first movie, I think Fifty Shades Darker brings much stronger chemistry between the two leads, Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele) and Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey). Their new “arrangement” (no rules and no punishments) allows them to be real with each other and have fun – both inside and outside the bedroom (or the Red Room) – so the audience can, too. Putting less of a focus on contracts and rules makes the more risqué elements of the movie more approachable, but certainly no less sexy. (Let me assure you, it’s pretty damn sexy.)
If you’re a fan of the books, I think – based on my friends’ reactions – that you will be more than pleased with Fifty Shades Darker. And if you haven’t read them but you’re even a little bit curious, come in with an open mind. As Anastasia discovers, you never know what you might like until you try it.
Oh, and make sure to stay for the credits. There’s a first look at Fifty Shades Freed, the third and final installment in the series, that you won’t want to miss.
Fifty Shades Darker is in theaters now.
Let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments!