Plot: What’s it about?
Audiences were mixed when 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey hit theaters. Based on the best-selling novels by E L James, they weren’t exactly Shakespeare, but they sold copies and that’s what publishers like. For those that either don’t know or are curious, this is a trilogy (of sorts) and Fifty Shades Darker is the second entry. If, for some reason, you’ve not seen the first film, let me summarize it for you. It was essentially one big rape fantasy about an innocent young woman who agrees to let a damaged man have his way with her (sexually, of course) simply because he’s rich and attractive. There I saved you two hours. You’re welcome. It’s hard to follow up something like that, so the only way to go was to tone the second one down. And that’s what they’ve done. Arguably the second film was generally better-reviewed than the first, then again that was a low bar to clear.
Dakota Johnson once again plays Anastasia Steele. She’s approached by Christian (Jamie Dornan) begging her to come back and he promises that she’ll never again have to experience his dark and twisted side. Yes, it’s hard to imagine that a man would say “Hey baby, I can change!” She, of course, agrees and they engage in some kinky sex. However, nothing lasts forever and it’s not long until we met Leila (Bella Heathcoate), Christian’s former mistress, who starts stalking Ana(stasia). Add to the mix Elena (Kim Basinger), the older woman who also has a past with Christian (albeit when he was a teenager), also tries to scare Ana off. There are a lot more characters in the mix this time around. What’s a girl to do?
And, in a nutshell, that’s how Fifty Shades Darker plays out. Yes, it’s got a great soundtrack, it’s beautifully-shot (I’m a big fan of Foley’s direction) as well as the obligatory edgy sex scenes. And I’m guessing that if you’ve read this far then you know what to expect and I’ll say that the movie does deliver. As I’d mentioned, this is an improvement over the first film, but not by much. The appearance of Academy Award winner Kim Basinger (who hasn’t been seen in a while) is a nice touch and it reminded me of the days when she did a little film called 9 ½ Weeks. Never let it be said that Hollywood, like everything else, isn’t cyclical. There’s more of the same here, but a few things thrown in for good measure. Essentially, as any second of three films does, this sets up the final installment – Fifty Shades Freed.
Video: How’s it look?
As the title of the film might entail, this is a bit darker in tone that its predecessor. The included 2.40:1 AVC HD image leaves nothing to the imagination and though we don’t see quite as much of Dakota Fanning as we did before, there’s still an ample amount of skin. This seems to have a very sleek and smooth look to it. The wide cityscapes are heavy in detail while some of the more portrait-oriented shots really showcase the depth of the transfer. Black levels are strong, contrast bold and, yes, it’s another fine-looking transfer of a new to Blu-ray movie. This is also available in a 4K version, though I can only imagine the HDR offering up a bit more on the color spectrum.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I was kind of surprised/impressed to find a DTS X track included. It was a nice treat to throw in, though after looking at the press release – it wasn’t exactly a secret that it was going to be included. That said, this delivers on the audio level. Surrounds are super active with everything from cocktail party chatter to the constant hum of traffic to, well, the acts of passion. Vocals (screams of passion?) are sharp and constant, fronts are super active and the LFE get a few chances to shine. It’s a nice, solid effort that’s sure to please. The included DTS HD Master Audio track is no slouch either, so if you’re not equipped with a DTS X setup – fear not.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes
- Christian and Ana Discuss what Elena Said
- Christian and Ana Discuss Ana’s Security and her Work
- A Tease to Fifty Shades Freed – A tease to the next Fifty Shades film.
- Writing Darker – Author E.L. James and screenwriter Niall Leonard trace back the history of the book and introduce viewers to the much darker story and its adaptation to the big screen.
- Dark Reunion – The filmmakers and cast members discuss being reunited for this second film, and where we find Ana, Christian and their friends.
Blu-ray Exclusives (all of the extras from the DVD plus these below)
- Unrated version – The unrated version of the film can be selected from the main menu. This contains 14 more minutes of footage from the theatrical version (also included).
- A Darker Direction – Director James Foley explains how his vision had to meet with fans’ expectations.
- New Threats – An introduction to some new, dark and threatening characters, including Jack Hyde, Leila and, of course, Elena Lincoln – aka Mrs. Robinson!
- The Masquerade – This featurette about one of the film’s most iconic scenes — the masquerade benefit event at Grey Mansion — explores the production design and costumes and goes behind-the-scenes with the filmmakers and main cast members.
- Intimate With Darker – An intense look and discussion about the intimate, sensual and provocative world of Fifty Shades Darker, including a visit to the Red Room and, of course, the new “toys!”
The Bottom Line
You either love these movies or love to hate them. I won’t say which category I fall into. Still, there is some allure in them and with a third on the way, we’ll finally see a trilogy of films complete – something which several others haven’t been able to do. While not as raunchy as the first, the unrated version does give us a bit more of what we want to see (but have already seen). The soundtrack rocks and a decent selection of extras only sweeten the deal. Fans of this movie, you know who you are and the Blu-ray is out there for the taking if you’re so inclined.