Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
Fifty Shades Darker is not very good. But at least it leans into its campiness: The sequel comes with grotesque music cues, Jamie Dornan’s suspicious half-nudity, a curiously positioned Chronicles of Riddick poster … it’s bad, but it’s also very fun, especially in groups. This go-round, the BDSM-lite romance has even less of a plot than its predecessor. There are a few scenes of half-hearted conflict peppered with a handful of near-death experiences — and, because the heart wants what it wants, lots of sex. Most critics, however, weren’t as charmed by this offering. Read the snarkiest critical appraisals below.
“The big reveal in this film (and perhaps the only sign that Grey might have a tacit genetic connection to the human race) is that he has a Chronicles of Riddick poster on the wall of his childhood bedroom. This is the sort of high-calibre character shorthand you simply don’t get at film school … [Fifty Shades Darker] makes The Chronicles of Riddick look like Le Règle du Jeu.” — David Jenkins, Little White Lies
“No safeword can protect you from the sequel’s depleting incoherence, its punishing pileup of plot and its inability to successfully stage, even once, the franchise’s claim to notoriety: sex scenes, whether accessorized with hardware or not.” — Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice
“As soon as Fifty Shades Darker kicked off to the opening strains of a whispery Coldplay cover, it all came flooding back. Here we are again: watching two anatomical marvels writhe meaninglessly in the moonlight, like a burlesque performed by bots.” — Laura Bennett, Slate
“As with the first film, Johnson and Dornan have about as much chemistry as a box of Wheat Thins being blindfolded by a box of Triscuits.” — Allison Shoemaker, Consequence of Sound
“Johnson has a facial expression for even the flattest moments in the film, and seems to say, with those eyes, ‘We’re stuck in this guy’s penthouse for the next two hours; we might as well enjoy it.’” — Meredith Goldstein, Boston Globe
“Kind of strange that in a purportedly kinky movie, the two main characters only ever seem to achieve orgasm in the missionary position, with a soundtrack that seems to have been selected from some MOR Spotify user’s fuck playlist.” — Jesse Hassenger, Brooklyn Magazine
“Has there ever been a film in which the hero has so much sex without properly taking off his trousers?” — Donald Clarke, Irish Times
“The last third of the film descends straight into a combination of Dynasty with shades of cult classic The Room. It’s fantastic because it’s complete and utter silly madness. Helicopter crashes! Slaps! Drinks thrown in faces! Fully clothed shower sex! A framed Chronicles of Riddick poster! All the makings of an instant cult classic.” — Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune
“The frequent use of musical montages — as trite and heavy-handed as they are — comes across as something of a relief, simply because during those stretches, nobody’s talking.” — Brian Lowry, CNN
“Fifty Shades of Unnecessarily Extra Choices.” — Jarett Wieselman, Buzzfeed