It boggles the mind why I would even attempt to do this, but at only three movies (Fifty Shades Freed arrives in theaters this weekend) I’m taking the plunge into the film adaptation of the Fifty Shades book series.
Years ago, when I was punching in and out at Fandango, we launched a moderately, albeit short-lived series of posts that involved someone taking on a franchise they had never seen before and then posting their reaction to the films. I took on the Star Trek franchise while then colleague Jacob Hall (who’s now the managing editor at Slash Film) took on the Fast and Furious franchise.
Mind you, I have never seen the first two films nor have I read any of the books. My only familiarity with the franchise comes from the ubiquitous jokes that were around when the first film came out.
With that being said, let’s crack the whips and hope I don’t have to pull down a blindfold to get through this trilogy.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
What I Think It’s About: A rich and emotionally stunted sycophant attempts to lure a virgin wallflower into a kinky relationship.
What IMDb Says It’s Really About: “Literature student Anastasia Steele’s life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.”
Cheesiest Moment: This line – “Look at me,” which is responded to with, “I am.” Also, the last 30 minutes of this film which turn into a soap opera.
Catchphrase: Anastasia – “Strike out vaginal fisting too.” Christian – “Really?” Anastasia – “Yup.”
Trivia: This first film is Oscar nominated. You read that correctly. For music, because seriously that soundtrack is fantastic.
Verdict: Honestly, this movie isn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. Mind you the final 30-40 minutes were a bit of an unnecessary drag but all in all it’s watchable. That being said, this entire trilogy would probably have been better served as being told in one succinct film (but then where’s the millions and millions of dollars in that, right?)
Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
What I Think It’s About: Honestly with the way the first film ends I have no idea what to expect here. Obviously they get together again at some point but if that’s the case we’re just basically retreading on the first film all over again and that would be such a drag.
What IMDb Says It’s About: “While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her.”
Favorite Moment: When the credits began to roll? Kidding. Sort of. This middle movie of the trilogy was a real struggle to watch. It falls into a rhythm of – Ana and Christian argue which leads to Christian deflecting with sex, which leads to Ana prodding him to open up emotionally. Rinse and repeat. Also, the ankle bar restraints part was hot AF.
Quote: Christian – “I hope you’re not a sore loser.” Anastasia – “That depends on how hard you spank me.”
Verdict: Between the first two films, definitely my least favorite. I’m very hesitant to follow through with this after slogging my way through this second film. My hope is that the third and final film will be much better than this, but my bar is still aimed very low. Like an ankle bar restraint.
Fifty Shades Freed (2018)
What I Think It’s About: I assume that the couple is now married and we’ll see some kinky married sex now. Based on the trailer, I know that Mr. Sexually Aggressive Ex-Boss will come back into the picture. My hope is that this final chapter is not a boring, muddled mess.
What IMDb Says It’s About: “Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.”
Favorite Moment: For all the nonsense that is being woven together in this film, the Audi that gets driven around in this film gives a fantastic supporting performance and deserves an IMDb credit for sure!
Verdict: This final chapter is such a muddled mess. The movie just doesn’t have a clear idea of what it wants to be. It starts off as an intriguing mystery, then devolves into a sloppily edited romance, and concludes as a made-for-TV thriller complete with all the classic tropes of ticking clocks and “don’t notify anybody” commands.
I will say though that this film is perhaps the most easily watchable of the three. There’s enough humor and intrigue in here to at least hold an audience’s attention. Dakota Johnson definitely looks much more comfortable in this outing (likely due to the shooting schedule picking right up after the second film completed) and gives a strong performance keeping in mind the material she’s working with here.
Verdict of Verdicts: I guess the big question here is would I do this again and did I gain anything out of this. First off, in hindsight I probably would do this again but I doubt that I would enjoy it very much. Mind you that I am in no way the target audience for this franchise so the fact that I was able to complete it to begin with should be worth some kind of brownie points (mmm… brownies).
As for what I gained out of this… The realization that the “trust me” ankle bar restraint actually exists (and you can purchase it on Amazon). That and the Audi are easily my favorite part of this entire trilogy, which I guess sums up this entire experiment in a way.