Fifty Shades Darker (2 stars)

Fifty Shades Darker

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return for the second adaptation of EL James's bonkbusters

The second adaptation of EL James' Fifty Shades trilogy features a new director, as Sam Taylor-Johnson is replaced by James Foley (House of Cards, Glengarry Glen Ross). With the books and first film turning out to be significant cash-cows, the continuing adventures of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) retain the strong production values and languid plot development that audiences seem to crave, yet that leave critics rushing to distance themselves from any suggestion of potential enjoyment.

Fifty Shades of Grey ended with Anastasia refusing to be Christian's submissive, but a few kindly overtures on behalf of the Seattle billionaire ensure a swift return to his well-upholstered red room of bondage. Intrigue comes in the form of jilted ex-lovers who stalk the couple – including the menacing presence of Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), who taught the young Christian everything he knows about bedroom prowess. Anastasia soon rediscovers her taste for being tied-up in Christian's games, but the dark secrets of his mind prove difficult to unlock.

Like Taylor-Johnson, Foley seems to be under strict orders to skip the most regularly bookmarked pages of the novels, omitting much of the sexual detail. The frequent bouts of erotic action are all foreplay; the reveal of an arcane toy – telescopic leg-braces – is followed by an abrupt post-coital jump-cut to a helicopter view of Seattle by night. The real 'money shots' here are of the clothes, apartment, yacht and high-end ephemera of a rich man's lifestyle, and for Fifty Shades' fantasy-loving crowd, that may be enough to keep them satisfied.

While Dornan merely pouts and smoulders, Johnson is again the major selling point, making something likable and human out of the cipher that is Anastasia. Otherwise, Fifty Shades Darker invites complicit audiences to share the BDSM tradition of 'topping from the bottom'; unfortunately, those who submit to such crude seductions will find they get exactly the film they deserve.

General release from Fri 10 Feb.

Fifty Shades Darker

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 58min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
  • Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
  • UK release: 10 February 2017

No surprises here: Anastasia (Johnson) gets sweet-talked back into the red room by Christian (Dornan). Foley seems to be under orders to skip the actual sex, as the real money shots are of Christian’s wardrobe. Johnson manages to be likeable and human, but otherwise it’s high on production values and short on story.