"Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Darker, the second chapter based on the worldwide bestselling Fifty Shades phenomenon. When a wounded Christian tries to entice a cautious Anastasia 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. Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) and Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) join the cast, determined to destroy the couple's hopes for a future together. This time there are no rules." That is the official description for Fifty Shades Darker, now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which has provided NewTechReview with a NFR copy for review.
Despite what you might think about the Fifty Shades franchise, both the books and the films have garnered a generous cult following. From a filmmaking standpoint, most critics (including myself) find these movies to be, shall we say, less than stellar (and that's putting it mildly). The scripts are devoid of any true substance and the acting is simply not good. Although, I must say that the actors really do try their best to make the most of a bad situation, and when it comes to the explicit scenes, they really do give it their all. So why are these films so popular? Well, they follow the same formula found in romance novels and soap operas, except taken to a much more intimate level. And the last time I checked, there were still millions of people out there who love to read trashy novels and watch silly soaps. They don't care if the story is great, they just read and watch to be entertained and escape the realities of life for a short time.
So what can fans expect from Fifty Shades Darker? Well, more of the same, of course. Although, diehard fans may be slightly disappointed that the second film installment doesn't follow the book exactly and also doesn't include some key scenes from the story. Some of the characters were removed from the storyline, such as Anastasia's roommate's brother; him being a key factor to her run-in with Leila. They also changed the way that Christian and Anastasia meet up again. Instead of simply bumping into each other (as shown in the movie), the book portrays them communicating before going to Jose's show together. But as with most film depictions, the book is usually better since it provides far more pages than a mere movie script.
Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to experience the 4K release, but if the Blu-ray is any indication, then fans are in for a visual treat, so to speak. The picture is clean and clear throughout the film. The highbrow locations are displayed nicely and brimming with opulence. This is also true for the high-priced wardrobe worn by the characters, especially with the wonderfully decorative costumes shown-off at the masquerade party. We're also treated to a DTS:X Master Audio track, which is well-utilized in scenes like the aforementioned masquerade as well as the overall film environment.
In addition to including both Theatrical (1:57) and Unrated (2:11) versions of the film, Fifty Shades Darker includes a good selection of bonus features, as follows:
* A Tease to Fifty Shades Freed - This is a sneak peek at the final installment of the trilogy.
* Deleted Scenes - This provides two very short scenes, which were cut from the film.
* Writing Darker - Author E.L. James talks about writing the books and about how they were adapted to film.
* A Darker Direction - Director James Foley talks about his involvement with the film, how he used the books to guide his direction, and how he worked together with author E.L. James to bring the film to the screen.
* Dark Reunion - Director and cast discuss working together, as well as how they went about bringing their characters to life.
* New Threats - This featurette provides a closer look at the new characters introduced in this second installment of the trilogy.
* The Masquerade - This is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the masquerade.
* Intimate with Darker - This is another behind-the-scenes look, this time covering how the sex scenes were created and filmed.
What it boils down to is this... if you're a fan, you'll more than likely enjoy the movie, even with its deviations from the book. If you're not a fan, you probably won't enjoy it. Like the entire franchise, Fifty Shades Darker is basically an unrated or rated R soap opera with a slim storyline, shallow characters, and plenty of sex. But as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of soap opera fans out there, and as always, sex sells. So, I leave it up to you to decide.
For more information, visit:
* Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pHqesV
* Universal: universalstudios.com