I’m not going to lie: the first 50 Shades movie disappointed me. When you’re making a movie from a tome of Twilight fan–fiction, I expect a campy, sexy rollercoaster ride. Instead, I got a relatively banal romantic drama that took itself far too seriously. Still, I walked into Fifty Shades Darker on its opening night Friday with high hopes. Maybe the two leads would actually have chemistry this time around. Maybe Christian Grey would tie Anastasia up and carry out his wildest fantasies while a techno remix of “S&M” by Rihanna blares in the background. Universal Pictures, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but I feel like the next movie could really benefit from such a scene.
The Cinemark Theater is absolutely packed. The people of University City have apparently been longing for the day that Christian Grey and his mousy sidekick Anastasia Steele return to the big screen. My friends and I are subject to judgmental gazes as we sheepishly sit in the handicapped seats to avoid sitting in the front row (I know this is a faux pas, but the front row is awful). As the movie starts, I learn that this audience is here to have fun. They hoot and holler as the stiff billionaire Christian Grey seduces Anastasia with clunky dialogue and laugh with each awkward sex scene. At one point, Christian calls up his assistant and asks her to transfer $24,000 into Anastasia’s account, just because he can. I am exhilarated by the mere thought of this, and briefly consider a foray into the world of sugar daddies. Anastasia protests, but Christian replies by telling her that it’s no big deal, as he makes that much money every 15 minutes. I start doing some mental math and realize that this means Christian Grey makes around $800 million per year. I am simultaneously jealous and proud of Anastasia—she snagged this man despite her questionable style and nonexistent personality. Good for you, girl.
Around 45 minutes in, the audience gets what we’ve all been waiting for. I'm referring to Rita Ora, of course. The audience breaks into uproarious applause as she walks onscreen. I am kidding—I would guess that approximately 20% of the audience recognized her and all who did were mildly confused. I spend a few minutes in deep thought. Who is Rita Ora? Why is she famous? Is it all because she sings “Black Widow” with Iggy Azalea? I'm broken out of my contemplation when I hear that Taylor Swift/Zayn song assaulting my eardrums during a montage of Christian and Anastasia laughing and posing seductively on a yacht. This does not look like a movie; it looks like a Ralph Lauren commercial.
My favorite moment comes after a tense scene where Anastasia incapacitates her sleazy boss, who had suddenly made very creepy advances towards her. The moviegoers break out into screams and cheers—I like this audience! The rest of the plot devolves into a series of pseudo–kinky sex scenes and breathy conversations between Anastasia and Christian. There is a sudden helicopter crash, which may sound out of place for this kind of movie—it is. After one last extravagant party full of flowers and fireworks, the movie draws to a sudden, unexciting close.
As I shuffle out of the theater and towards Greek Lady, I am left to ponder: Will this story ever have any real drama or suspense? Who cut Anastasia’s bangs, and why do they hate her so much? What is Rita Ora’s next career move? Would I have gained any satisfaction from this film if I hadn't seen it in a packed theater? Hopefully all of these questions will be answered in the final installment of the 50 Shades trilogy, which I will undoubtedly be seeing.