2014's Fifty Shades of Grey was a subversive, cheeky, titillating romantic drama that you may have skipped because it's based on the trashiest novel ever to hit the best-seller list. In 2012, E.L. James' glorified Twilight fan fiction stimulated a nation while driving grammar enthusiasts into therapy, ensuring that expectations for the adaptation were lower than the book's reading level. But dammit, the movie is good. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson are a riot as the BDSM-lite couple Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, and every lusty scene of whips-on-bare-skin effectively steams up the room. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey is an anomaly -- that's praise.
So what's up in this trailer for Fifty Shades Darker? And when I say "what's up," I mean (1) Why do Dornan and Johnson act like mannequins? (2) Why is the operatic sex from the first movie reduced to soft petting and an awkward shower hookup? (3) Why did they replace Beyoncé's smoky "Crazy in Love" with Miguel? (4) What the hell is this movie about?
A summary, paired with the February 2017 release's chaste tease, attempts to shine light on the Darker situation:
When a wounded Christian Grey tries to entice a cautious Ana Steele back into his life, she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian’s past start to circle the couple, determined to destroy their hopes for a future together.
Fifty Shades of Grey had a sense of humor and liveliness to its sex scenes. Fifty Shades Darker looks fifty shades more serious. There's a different team behind this movie than the first, which may explain the shift; Darker was written by E.L. James' husband and directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, Fear). And if you're going to sequelize an erotic thriller, at some point it'll need more than the erotic to keep it up.
But egad, this trailer won't convert the skeptical. That first Fifty Shades back in 2014 was bold enough to strap Johnson to a love bench and gasp with carnal surprise. This trailer teases a ghostly figure who looks like she stepped out of Abercrombie-commissioned remake of The Grudge. I'm sure it'll make sense in context and surrounded by heavy breathing. Maybe.
We'll find out if Fifty Shades Darker's hiding anything under the surface when it drops next year. In the meantime, take a chance on the first movie, or hell, indulge your own kinks. We can help you there.