Fifty Shades of Grey: A Look Back at a Very Questionable Trilogy

Fifty Shades of Over. After three movies, a trilogy of terrible things ends. Let’s take a look back at three films that have made their very own kind of cultural impact.

February 2015. I really, really want to see this new movie that opens in theatres. It’s the first installment in the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy of movies. Am I a fan of the property?

Oh, no, I’m not.

If anything, I’m going to the gala premiere a friend for mine has won tickets for because I want to see one sort of person: The middle-aged housewife who these books were written for. I want to see them shuffling awkwardly around between nibbles and saying stuff like «I’m just such a fan of the actors» while everyone else, just as awkwardly, nods and agrees, thinking «I know why you’re here!»

But the gala premiere doesn’t bring out this porn cinema vibe I was hoping for, just with awkward middle-aged men replaced by middle-aged women. Instead, I get the usual crowd: Movie fans who go see everything given a chance – people like me –, media and whatever this city considers to be local fame. Some people who were on a little watched clone of «The Bachelor» for example.

Now, three years later, the journey through Fifty Shades of Grey on the big screen ends. Time to look back at four years of facepalming and wondering what sequence of events led my life to be this.

Fifty Shades of Grey

In the first installment of the saga surrounding Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), we meet our lovers. She’s a tool, he’s a tool, they’re tooling around together, unfortunately having no chemistry whatsoever. So that’s bad. I mean, we’re in a movie where people are fatally attracted to each other, through better and worse and together, they find the love and fulfillment each one of them seeks.

Yeah, well, no.

Additional issues with the movies arise when I realize around the halfway marker that the film has nothing to offer but a great soundtrack. Seriously, that stuff is great. Assuming the movie had been charming, sexy, funny or anything, the soundtrack would have been a spectacular addition to the on-screen mood. But as it stands, the soundtrack is the only thing that suggests a mood. Hell, The Weeknd‘s track «Earned it» even got nominated for an Academy Award. Of course, it didn’t win the Oscar, but hey, considering the rest of the movie, being nominated for one award that isn’t a Golden Raspberry is quite the achievement.

Ultimately, I left the cinema worrying about the future of the franchise. Because there’s no way on Earth that this terrible movie will get a sequel… right?

Fifty Shades Darker

I will admit, I missed out on this one. Until the gala premiere of the third part was announced. Because while the first movie got a lot of hype surrounding it, the second one came and went without much fanfare. I’m not even sure if there was a gala premiere.

Unsurprising.

The plot in Fifty Shades Darker is barely existent and I’m hard pressed to actually recall what story this movie is trying to tell me. So at the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia got a deep look into the world of Christian Grey, multi-billionaire sex fiend or something. She obviously didn’t like it and they broke up.

However, for reasons completely beyond any comprehensible narrative, the billionaire sex fiend can’t keep away from the newly emancipated former future spinster. It is all very confusing. So he buys her workplace. It’s not entirely clear what she’s working as, but her boss at The Job says it’s prestigious because «a lot of people would kill for this opportunity».

So anyway, they crash in a helicopter.

It is in this installment of the series that I realize that the story violates one basic principle of storytelling: It completely neglects the aspect of time. There’s no timeframe to any of the scenes and most of them can be used interchangeably. There’s no coherent plot in this middle movie. Mind you, there’s a bunch of vignettes that illustrate some point or another that the storytellers are trying to make. Apparently, a number of months have been passed since Anastasia broke up with Christian. Doesn’t feel like it.

So plotless and excruciatingly bored, I decide to go do an interview with a real dominatrix. Because if there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, then it’s the fact that the BDSM portrayed in the movie is nowhere near anything encountered in reality.

Fifty Shades Freed

It all ends with Fifty Shades Freed. Finally. Okay, I will admit, I have not been waiting or anticipating this day. In fact, I care about the franchise around once a year when a new movie comes out. The hype surrounding it all seems to have died down.

Time for another gala premiere.

This time around, though, the movie distributor has gone all out. An erotic circus sends some of its artists to perform for the usual high society people. I am underdressed, wearing a hoodie and boots as opposed to a black and white formal attire. The circus is indeed sexy.

The movie isn’t.

They have managed to make a sex film without any sex in it. Or sexiness. Take your pick. Whatever positive or tantalizing quality you want to attest to a movie about the fiery passion of love and sex you would expect to see in a movie about all these topics, you will not find it in Fifty Shades Freed. It seems as if the producers, actors and pretty much anyone else involved in the movie’s making went out of their way to make sure it’s not in the movie.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are fine actors on their own, but they’re given nothing to work with. Once this realisation has set in, the movie kicks it up a notch.

That’s when the film goes from benevolently shitty to outright insulting.

When Christian gets drunk after having been told that Anastasia is pregnant, he gets drunk. He comes home and Anastasia, being the devoted wife of Christian she is, tries to haul the drunk hunk to bed. It is there where both actors show that they have got it, despite all of the everything.

He sticks his head under her shirt and cracks a funny line about being in between her breasts. That is genuinely funny, charming and totally something anyone could see happening in a relationship between two human beings.

After this, the movie is getting infuriatingly worse, because all of a sudden a plot rears its head. Granted, it’s your standard abduction plot, but it would be enough to carry a film. If you do it right, much less of a plot can carry a movie, three if needed. But in Fifty Shades Freed, the plot – The «capital T, capital P» Plot – starts in the final act of the saga.

At least my appointment with the dominatrix is the day after I watch the local high society post in front of a neatly set up camera, brandishing chains and whips, having a jolly good old time with it. Eating nibbles until they get sick, washing them down with champagne. I get flashbacks to the description of the feast in The Hunger Games.

Ultimately, I remain convinced that author E. L. James, who wrote all three Fifty Shades books as fan fiction to the equally questionable Twilight saga and then somehow scored a publishing deal, has never seen a naked person below the neck. I am also fairly certain that she has never experienced any of the things she describes in the book.

And, finally, I will kind of miss going to gala premieres of Fifty Shades films. Despite the fact that the movies are crap, the premiere events were nicely done.

But I won’t miss a thing about the movies.

 

Dom

 

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