Fifty Shades Freed (2018) Review
AN ANT-CLIMATIC CONCLUSION
The allure of two people, the romance they share, and somewhat awkward sexual escapades in BDSM (Bondage, Disciple, Sadism, and Masochism). Plus, don’t forget the clunky Twilight-esque story of which this “forbidden love” is being told. Yes, you know what I’m talking about…. the confusing relationship of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele from E.L. James’s bestselling series Fifty Shades of Grey. While the world was captivated by the novels (i.e. considered to be named “mommy porn” by many) and sold millions, it was inevitable that Hollywood would snatched up the rights to produce a cinematic representation of James’s work. This, of course, finally materialized in 2015 with the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first installment of the trilogy. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the story followed the courtship of a young Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and the mysterious Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman) and his sexual taboo temptations that are exactly “garden variety. Unfortunately, Fifty Shades of Grey was deemed “meh” by critics and moviegoers, with many citing it to be “tamed” in its sex scenes, or it’s wooden performances with its leads, or maybe its clunky dialogue within a laughable story. Despite heavy criticism and being branded by many as a film that’s mediocre at best or terrible at worst, Fifty Shades of Grey did score big at the box office, collectively raking in roughly $ 571 million worldwide, which prompted the studio the green light the second story in the trilogy. 2017’s Fifty Shades Darker further continued the romance between Anastasia and Christian (along with their sexual frivolities) as well as adding conflicts with Grey’s old lovers (Leila Williams and Elena Lincoln) and Steele’s possessive / stalker old boss (Jack Hyde). As to be expected, Fifty Shades Darker was received negatively by critics and causal moviegoers (myself included), finding the sequel to be redundant in almost all previous categories that made the first film terrible. However, the film did make money at the box office (roughly $381 million), but almost $200 million short from what the first film was able to achieve. Now, a year after since Fifty Shades Darker was released, Universal Pictures and director James Foley present the final chapter to the popular Fifty Shades series with the film Fifty Shades Freed. Does this third installment close out the trilogy properly or does anyone really care about what happens with Christian and Anastasia relationship?
After being proposed to, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman) finally “tie the knot”, celebrating their marriage in front of their close friends and family. The newlywed couple then sets off on their honeymoon, jet-setting to the world’s most romantic locations and enjoying the perks of being married. However, while their sexual vigor is fully charged, Ana and Christian hit some road bumps in the early days of their marriage, particularly when Ana defies Christian’s orders. While Ana must grow accustom to living the more privilege life of being Mrs. Grey, Christian must learn to live with his wife’s independence, choosing to remain as a fiction editor for a local publishing house. However, when Ana finds out she’s pregnant, it either make or break this newly minted marriage. Elsewhere, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s disgruntled former boss, breaks into the offices of Christian’s company and hatches a plot between the now Mr. and Mrs. Grey to reclaim something that he believes rightfully belongs to him.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Oh, Fifty Shades…what can I say about this series. While both Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker received financial box office success, there are few people out there who will argue that Fifty Shades of Grey was a spectacular movie. Personally, I was one of the people finding Fifty Shades of Grey to a “bad movie” and was #8 on my “Top Worst Movies of 2015”. The movie was less-than steamy, with tamed sexual scenes, a weak script (a plethora of laughable dialogue), and wooden / uninteresting main characters. For being one of the most anticipated movies of that year, it was a downright bore and unappealing as either movie entertainment or pure cinematic escapism. I share the same sentiments and personal views when it comes to the other Fifty Shades film Fifty Shades Darker. To make matter worse, much of the sequel is plagued by what went wrong in the first film. Yes, the movie expands more of this cinematic world and adds a bit layer to certain characters, but all of it is just lackadaisical and awkward, which just comes off as being silly (and almost laughable) and further drives home the point that this film series is definitely a far cry from being decently good. Well, at least Fifty Shades Darker had a somewhat “narrative” ending to the feature unlike Fifty Shades of Grey…. you know what I mean. Still, Fifty Shades Darker was a terrible movie and ended making it #6 on my “Top 10 Worst Movies of 2017”.
This, of course, brings me to the point of the post, which is for Fifty Shades Freed, the third and final feature film in this trilogy tale of Anastasia and Christian. As I stated above, it was almost inevitable that this installment was gonna be made. I really didn’t hear much internet buzz about this movie, with the exception of seeing the trailers appear on online, which didn’t really build much excitement for me to get “hyped” for this new movie. The first film left a sour taste in my mouth and the second even worse. However, being an aspiring movie reviewer, I took another “wild shot in the dark” and purchase a movie ticket to see the sequel in theaters. Much like Fifty Shades Darker, I actually saw this movie in theaters and the room was filled with rowdy (and horny) middle-aged women, with me…. the only guy in the theater. So…. the big question…. what did I think of it? Did this final entry in the trilogy give a satisfying conclusion? The answer is….no! To be quite honest, Fifty Shades Freed continues the trend set by the two previous films by being too much in love with its own story. This film fails to impress and seems to be an almost carbon copy as the other Fifty Shades films, complete with all its strengths (what little there is) and all of its weaknesses. In short, Fifty Shades Freed ends on a wooden, laughable, and unsatisfying ending to the tale of Ana and Christian.
Director James Foley, whose previous directorial works include films like Fear and Perfect Stranger as well as several TV series like Netflix’s House of Cards and Showtime’s Billions, returns to helm Fifty Shades Freed. Given the fact that many critics and viewers have stated their opinions on the Fifty Shades films, one would think that Foley and his filmmaking team would try to rectify those negative remarks when crafting the final installment in this trilogy. Unfortunately, Foley really doesn’t do that and continues keep mostly everything the same (aka “status quo”) from his involvement in directing Fifty Shades Darker, translating into yet another hollow feature film in Fifty Shades Freed. Before I go any further in my review, I have to mention that I haven’t read any of the Fifty Shades books (and don’t plan to). Thus, my review is strictly based on the movie aspect of Fifty Shades Freed and not on what was cut, change, or omitted from book to film. Although, I have heard that from those who have read the books and they’ve told me Fifty Shades Freed is more of a “faithful” film adaptation than the previous two movies. So…. I guess that’s a good thing (at least for fans of James’s novel).
As I was saying, Freed further continues to develop the relationship between Anastasia and Christian, finding the pair wed in the film’s opening credits and enjoying life, but the movie the quickly becomes messy by feeling part retread of the last film during the first half of the movie and part odd / bizarre angle in the form of character of Jack Hyde during the second half (more on the below). For the retread part, it’s pretty much what you would expect from both Grey and Darker, finding a lot of the “déjà vu” vibe once again rearing its head into the story, character moments, and sexual encounters. The films’ script, which was once again penned by Niall Leonard throws some new ideas (i.e. Ana getting pregnant and the resurfacing of Jack Hyde), but it just feels lackadaisical and almost to the point of being ridiculous. In truth, the story never fully jives, offering some clunky scenes as Foley and Leonard try to cultivate a narrative path through James’s story and provide internal conflicts between the two main protagonist characters. This, however, fails, with many scenes that seems overwrought with tedious drama even if it’s the smallest and stupidest reason to get upset about. It also doesn’t help with the fact that a sub-plot that involves the returning character of Jack Hyde, who seeks vengeance. The film gives a vague reason as to why, but it’s stupid and doesn’t feel earned; resulting in the “B story” narrative to be awkward (more awkward than the sex scenes) and feels totally “out of left field” in not just in Freed, but in the whole film trilogy. What makes this even worse, is in its storyboard execution of Hyde’s revenge plot scheme, which feels formulaic (i.e. a kidnap scenario) and seems like something from an episode of Criminal Minds or C.S.I.
However, before the Jack Hyde “B story” takes place, most of the first film is relatively the same, with Ana and Christian doing what they do best, which is flirting, saying awkward stuff, having sex (literally for no apparent reason), and then get upset about something, and then wake up the next day and do it all over again. It’s super repetitive, dumb, and completely unrealistic. The film tries add some dramatic elements into Ana and Christian’s newly marriage life, with Ana being more “defiant” to him, which, in turn, makes Christian cross with her. However, this character idea feels very forced and just ends up being unfinished as the whole Jack Hyde angle works its way into the main narrative plot. Why is Ana acting defiant? Because she thinks it funny and cutesy to do that to Christian…at least that’s what the film suggest. There could’ve been a deeper mean, Foley and Leonard never make it so.
One scene finds the pair having a sex in their car after they escaping an unknown car that has been following them…because nothing gets a person’s sexual blood pumping by evading a stalker in a car…. right?! This, of course, brings me to the sexual encounters scenes in Freed. Like I said in both Grey, these scenes are supposed to the film’s “bread and butter”, but ultimately ended up between somewhat “tamed” and “watered down” in comparison to both the book’s explicit details and to other sexually charge sequences on several TV shows (i.e. HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Starz’s Spartacus and Outlander). With Foley at the wheel in Darker, the sexual scenes were a bit heightened and bit more sensual, but still tamed with the movie suggesting what’s going on rather than showing it on-screen, which is the breaks the cardinal rule “show, don’t tell” in a film. As for Freed, it’s pretty much the same thing as Darker, with many of the sex scenes being sexual in nature and bit livelier than what was shown in Grey (a couple of sexual “kink” toys are thrown into the mix), but its still tamed and watered down to what I’ve seeing in a Game of Thrones episode. Thus, the whole novelty of Christian’s infamous “red room” has lost its edge and feels “meh” every time that the pair venture inside it.
As one can surmise from the above paragraphs, Freed’s story is probably the pretty weak (perhaps the weakest of the whole trilogy), which doesn’t help the movie’s cast when their saying poorly written lines of dialogue, which sometimes can almost be cringeworthy and / or laughable to hear. Headline the movie (again) is actress Dakota Johnson and actor Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Unfortunately, this being the final entry in the trilogy, the third go-round of these two characters are still left unappealing with both Johnson and Dornan feeling hollow in their respective characters. Together, both are still handsome individuals, which makes their physical outward appearances of Ana Christian. That being said, both still have zero chemistry with one another, making their romance (explicit sex and all) very clunky, forced, and very hard for a viewer to buy into, which is extremely strange as they had two whole feature films to get it right. Like before, Johnson, known for her roles in How to be Single, Ben and Kate, and Need for Speed, gives to be the more “playful” one of the two in her portrayal of Anastasia Steele, but some (or rather many) just comes off as still being cheesy and terrible as if done by amateur. Johnson can act, her spoken dialogue scenes in Freed are off-putting. As for Dornan, known for his roles in Once Upon a Time, The Fall, and Anthropoid, who is still very much wooden throughout most of Freed as Christian Grey, who spouts some serious lines that come off as silly rather than meaningful. Both are still committed to their roles (from onset to conclusion) and Freed does offer some new character points for them to play around with, but with film’s biggest selling point hinges on the pairing of these two, Johnson and Dornan fail to ignite romantic sparks in a believable way. I mean…dare I say that I found Kristen Stewart’s Bella and Robert Pattinson’s Edward from the Twilight films to be more compelling and believable than Johnson’s Anastasia and Dornan’s Christian. And that’s a scary thing to imagine!
In supporting roles, the character of Jack Hyde, Ana’s former publisher boss and who is played by actor Eric Johnson (The Knick and Rookie Blue), gets the most screen-time and acts as the film’s antagonist for a better part of the feature film’s narrative structure. While Hyde is supposed to be a “baddie” in Freed, Johnson’s Hyde just comes off as a cartoon-ish villain, with a predictable plot that he hatches for Mr. and Mrs. Grey and just comes off as being half-baked. It also doesn’t help that Johnson finds difficulty in trying to make Hyde “unhinged”, which, more often than not, feels goofy rather than a revenge seeking man. As I said, the film tries to explain why he wants his revenge, but the motivation as to why feels hollow (much like the character itself), which makes Jack Hyde a plot point obstacle rather than a fleshed-out character.
There are two new minor characters that appear in Freed, which are Brant Daugherty (Pretty Little Liars and Super Sportlets) as Sawyer, Ana’s personal security bodyguard, and Arielle Kebbel (The Grudge 2 and The Uninvited) as Gia Matteo, an architect recommended by Elliot Grey to design Anastasia and Christian’s future home. The rest of the supporting cast returning to their post from the previous two films. This includes, Luke Grimes (American Sniper and The Magnificent Seven) and Rita Ora (Southpaw) as Elliot and Mia Grey (Christian’s adopted brother and sister), Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River and The Mist) as Christian’s adopted mother Grace Trevelyan-Grey, Eloise Mumford (So Undercover and In the Blood) as Anastasia’s BF Kate, and Max Martini (Pacific Rim and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) as Jason Taylor, Christian’s driver and personal bodyguard / head of security. These actors and actress have small roles in the movie, but do their best in their limited screen time, adding continuity of familiar faces from the trilogy.
Perhaps the only positive remarks I have on Freed would have to be the technical presentation and musical selection, which were the same positive remarks that I said on both Grey and Darker. Given the fact the characters are underdeveloped and the story is weak, the film’s overall presentation is pleasing and well-made. It won’t win any awards or even be nominated for anything in those categories at the next award season, but Freed has to offer a slick presentation from its camera angles, to cinematography, to its costume designs, and its editing. The same can be said for the musical songs that were used in the movie. Like the previous two films, the music selection plays an important part with a collection of modern songs of romantic sultry temptations, which fit all the movie’s scenes, especially the more sexual ones. This includes “Capital Letters” by Hailee Steinfeld & Bloodpop, “For You (Fifty Shades Freed)” by Liam Payne & Rita Ora, “Deer in Headlights” by Sia, “Heaven” by Julia Michaels, and “Never Tear Us Apart” by Bishop Briggs. All in all, the songs used in the film are pretty good (probably better than what’s happening on-screen) as I would recommend buying and / or download the soundtrack rather seeing Fifty Shades Freed. And yes, Elle Goulding’s song “Love Me Like You Do” from Grey returns for the film’s final scene. I personally love that song!
However, what could top all of that is the film’s ending, which is so disappointing and ends on such a sour and inconclusive note. With Freed being the last story in the Fifty Shades trilogy, I was expecting to film to wrap up a lot of loose ends and give a satisfying send-off for most of the characters (mainly Ana and Christian) as well as fully explaining several sub-plot details. Unfortunately, both Foley nor Leonard give this particular a satisfying ending. I mean…what ever happened to Leila Williams, Christian’s psychotic old flame? What becomes of the character of Elena Lincoln? I’m sure that James’s novel explains what happens, but the movie never addresses these questions. There’s a small mid-credits scene that gives some future insight to Ana and Christian’s love life, but it’s just so infuriating that the movie doesn’t give a good ending, offering to choose a lazy one that feels stupid and almost insulting to its viewers.
The sexual romance tale of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey reaches its conclusion in the film Fifty Shades Freed. Director James Foley’s newest film brings the third and final installment in E.L. James’s popular bestselling trilogy to life, providing a new arena for the narrative to grow and presenting new obstacles (both public and intimate) for the now Mr. and Mrs. Grey to tackle and overcome. Unfortunately, while the film has a slick presentation and good selection of musical songs, Fifty Shades Freed still fails to impress, floundering with a lot of same negative / problematic points from the first two films, including a weak narrative, silly writing, sillier spoken dialogue, still tamed sex scenes, clunky characters (development and understanding), and an unsatisfying conclusion. Personally, as you can tell, I did not like this movie. Naturally, I wasn’t super excited about it nor did I get hyped up to see it, but still…. the final presentation of this film was uneventful and unappealing. The movie’s tagline “Don’t Miss the Climax” is a definite misnomer. I would have to say that, despite the “word of mouth” of people saying that this is the most faithful entry of the three films, Fifty Shades Freed is the weakest and most disappointing one. Of course, fans of the books will probably be pleased with the movie (I’m assuming that they will). However, for everyone else, just simply skipping the movie altogether is the best course of action, which is my recommendation for this movie. As it stands, with the film series concluded, the Fifty Shades cinematic trilogy represents that not all bestselling literary material translate well to the silver screen. In short, Fifty Shades Freed is flat out a terrible and downright uninspiring conclusion to its already equally bad (and laughable) predecessors. Personally, the ending of the Fifty Shades trilogy is the same way that it began…..trying to convince us (the viewers) that the awkward / sexual courtship of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is worth caring about.
2.0 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: February 9th, 2018
Reviewed On: February 9th, 2018
Fifty Shades Freed is 104 minutes long and is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language