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How many shades darker is Fifty Shades Darker really?

The sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, a 2015 book-to-film adaptation about the romantic and sexual tribulations of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, is called Fifty Shades Darker. We aren’t linguistic theorists, but it seems that this title, relying on the comparative form of “dark,” would indicate that this movie is precisely 50 shades darker than the first movie.

If you ignore that the obvious darkest moments of this trilogy come from a generally clunky understanding of BDSM and gender and power dynamics, you can trace most of the darkness in the first movie to dim lighting and Christian’s reliance on handcuffs. But to go 50 shades darker than that might mean going to a place that few would want to venture, and from which some may never return (i.e., Jamie Dornan’s acting career).

And so intrepid reporters Kaitlyn Tiffany and Lizzie Plaugic went to see the movie for themselves, unafraid but deeply curious as to how dark things could really go. The following is a mathematical, strictly considered breakdown of Fifty Shades Darker, shade by shade, to answer the question: How many shades darker is Fifty Shades Darker, really?

SPOILER WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE PLOT OF FIFTY SHADES DARKER BELOW

Our screening is at Lincoln Square AMC at 6:30PM. At this time of year, that’s considered night. It’s dark outside. +1 Shade Darker

We are at a press screening, which is a dark event in itself, because it means people with notepads and cinematic criticisms have been isolated from the average moviegoing folk. The experience is similar to going to a birthday party where everyone has been paid to attend. Another shade darker: the lights in the theater go down. +2 Shades Darker

The movie opens with a flashback of a young boy being abused by an older man who is presumably his father. This is the first thing we see in Fifty Shades Darker. + 1 Shade Darker

A moody coffee shop cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” plays as we get a slow pan of Seattle streets. + 1 Shade Darker

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) finishes her work day at an independent publishing company and heads out to attend a friend’s art show. As she’s leaving, her conventionally attractive boss (Flash Gordon’s Eric Johnson) says that her dress is very nice in that special way that means he’s not a good guy. +1 Shade Darker

At the gallery, Ana notices that most of the art is just giant black-and-white portraits of her leaning against trees and giggling — the kind of photos that come pre-selected when you buy a frame. Her artist friend thinks they will launch his career. +1 Shade Darker

Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who has apparently been absent from Ana’s life for months, buys every photo of Ana because he doesn’t want other people to look at her. +2 Shades Darker

Christian and Ana go to dinner together to discuss why they should begin dating again. Spoiler: it’s because they’re in a film franchise. Ana says there will be “no rules” this time, and Christian says “Um… sure.” The mood is briefly lightened by a very squeaky wine cork. It squeaks while Christian Grey glares at a waitress who is simply opening a bottle of wine for him as requested, and we all laugh. Lizzie and Kaitlyn celebrate the moment by sipping from a can of Coke and a paper cup of Diet Coke, respectively. +1 Shade Lighter

Over quinoa salad and steak with french fries, Christian says “My mom died when I was 4. She was a crack addict.” +1 Shade Darker

Ana says, “Why didn’t you tell me?” He says, “I did. You were asleep, though.” +1 Shade Lighter

As a reward for getting through dinner with him (and agreeing to date him again), Christian gives Ana a brand-new MacBook with “no strings attached,” except a black satin ribbon he took off a Glossier gift set. This reminds Kaitlyn and Lizzie that their computers are two years old — not that old, but not brand-new either. They don’t function perfectly anymore, and they’re full of dead skin. +2 Shades Darker

A young woman with bandages on her wrists appears in the street, grabs Ana, then says “I’m nobody” and runs away. +5 Shades Darker

Ana references Dante’s Inferno to her boss. +1 Shade Darker

Christian says “Calm isn’t really my forte.” The film is having an Italian moment. +5 Shades Darker

Ana takes Christian to the grocery store to let us know that she’s still voluntarily living like a poor person who has to sully herself by touching packaged food and cash. She uses vanilla Ben & Jerry’s as a metaphor for herself as a human being, and then also buys it. The grocery store had at least 10 other flavors of Ben & Jerry’s, and, I assure you, many, many cheaper options if all Ana wanted was vanilla ice cream. The world is also full of metaphors for one’s personality that are less of a self-own than saying “I’m this vanilla ice cream.” +3 Shades Darker

Christian Grey purchases the press that Ana works at, then transfers thousands of dollars into her bank account against her will. +5 Shades Darker

The “I’m nobody” girl (not to be confused with “I’m no one” from Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is now wearing Doc Martens. +1 Shade Darker

Some psychotic things happen in rapid succession: Christian takes Ana to a hair salon owned by Kim Basinger, who happens to be the older woman who got him into the sex stuff he does now. She’s like, “Why would you take me here?” He’s like, “I literally have no idea.” Next, Christian reveals that he keeps files on all his “prospective subs,” including Ana. This shocks her for some reason. Next, he reveals that one of his previous subs is obsessed with him again because her husband died in a car crash, and also she tried to kill herself in his apartment. This does not shock Ana for some reason. Time to make out. +5 Shades Darker

Kaitlyn and Lizzie realize the woman Christian was talking about is the “I’m nobody” woman who wears Doc Martens. Figuring something out for once is nice. +1 Shade Lighter

Ana still feels like she doesn’t understand Christian, so Christian, like the logical cartographer that he is, says something like, “Let me give you a map.” The map is the cigarette-burn scars on his chest, which is kind of a metaphor and kind of a nightmare. Then — see if you can keep up here — Ana pulls out her red lipstick and traces the scars on his body like a toddler with a crayon. (She’s a visual learner.) I think if they had turned the camera fully to face Jamie Dornan at this point, we would see that Dakota Johnson actually drew a giant smiley face on his chest. Later, after several hours and a party, Christian takes off his shirt and the lipstick lines on his chest are still crisp and perfect somehow. + 2 Shades Darker

Ana gets a makeover! + 1 Shade Lighter

Christian has Ana spit on a couple of metal ping-pong balls (spit is not a good lubricant, Christian) and then puts them in her vagina, saying, “You’ll figure out what they’re for.” She’s like, “lol, okay!” And Lizzie and Kaitlyn are like, “Noooooo!” A woman sitting in front of us is annoyed by Lizzie serving as the voice of the resistance. She tells us to shut up. We’re sitting in the dark, but you know what’s really dark? Putting huge metal objects up into your body before an evening out on the town. The male director and male screenwriter of this movie should ask someone what a vagina is sometime. +2 Shades Darker

Note: Kaitlyn and Lizzie later looked up these metal balls on their work computers and discovered they’re a real thing. However, the Wikipedia page for Ben Wa balls says they are “marblesized.” We are 100 percent confident saying “Okay, sure, whatever” to real Ben Wa balls and 100 percent confident standing by our original assessment of “No fucking way” in regards to the things portrayed in this film.

Masks! +1 Shade Darker

Ana wears a gray dress to Christian’s parents’ masquerade gala. It’s a pale shade of gray, and it’s satin, so it reflects a fair amount of light. +1 Shade Lighter

Apropos of nothing, Christian says “I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank you.” Everyone in the theater laughs, because like us, they have expectations for the logical procession of narratives and dialogue between human beings, and those expectations were upset by this bizarre outburst by one of the film’s main characters. +1 Shade Lighter

Upstairs in Christian’s childhood bed, Ana gets four medium spanks and some more missionary position sex. Christian does remember to take out the metal balls, but only after Lizzie and Kaitlyn yell at him for several minutes. Shortly after orgasm (?), Ana notices Christian’s UFC poster has a tiny photo of his dead mom tucked into the corner. In response to this, she says, “Is this your room?” +4 Shades Darker

A guy in a mask takes a photo of a photo in the staircase. +1 Shade Darker

Kim Basinger tells Ana that Christian “needs a submissive in life.” Then she puts on a mask with no eye holes. +2 Shades Darker

Ana and Christian enter a parking garage. Parking garages are scary. Remember The Dark Knight? +1 Shade Darker

Ana and Christian leave the parking garage in terror. (We honestly cannot remember why. This movie clips along at the pace of a notorious racist’s confirmation as Attorney General.) They go to a boat and do some Night Boating. +2 Shades Darker

Boat showering. +1 Shade Darker

The lipstick map is still on Christian’s body, which Lizzie and Kaitlyn just love. +1 Shade Lighter

The next morning, Ana is wearing a perfect boating outfit, including a cozy-looking J.Crew sweater and adorable loafers. While she steers the boat and laughs uproariously in the sun, a moody song by Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift plays. It doesn’t fit with the scene at all, but Lizzie and Kaitlyn enjoy themselves, as Zayn’s voice is beautiful. +10 Shades Lighter

An American flag is visible. The whole audience thinks “Oh shit, the United States is where we live. It has gotten so bad here.” +1 Shade Darker

Ana sends Christian a text, and it’s revealed that this is the first text she has sent him since the beginning of the film. You might think this is a sign that, for lovers, they have shockingly few phone interactions. The truth is that Christian is constantly in Ana’s grill so hard that there would barely be any reason for them to use phones. +1 Shade Darker

Christian tells Ana she can’t go on a work trip to New York, and at first she’s like “You can’t tell me what to do!” but then Christian is like “What if I go to New York with you, I have a place there, I am very wealthy” and then Ana is like, “Okay!” Then Ana tells her boss she can’t go to New York anymore, and no one ever goes to New York? +7 Shades Darker

At Christian’s apartment, Ana wanders into Christian’s Red Room, reserved explicitly for Naughty Sex. Christian takes this opportunity to explain to Ana how nipple clamps work, as if the name were not enough of a giveaway to a literate person. Lizzie says, “Okay, everyone knows what nipple clamps are,” and the woman in front of us gets angry again. +5 Shades Darker

Ana’s horrifying boss at the publishing company tries to rape her, saying that if she’s gonna sleep with a creep, it should be a creep who makes her smarter. He’s fired, but apparently no one calls the police? +2 Shades Darker

Ana is worried about losing her job after her boss sexually assaults her. She tells Christian, “You know I love working.” +1 Shade Darker

Because her boss has just been fired, Ana takes over for him in the senior editors’ meeting at “Seattle Independent Press.” Here, she proves she’s a genius by saying they should be focusing more on the 18–24 demographic. The old men in the meeting look around wildly like, Who is this intellectual little minx? They immediately promote her to her old boss’ old job, because, as we have just discovered, she is a genius. The audience is cackling at this point, slapping their thighs and stomping their feet in pure joy. It was a great moment, laughing with our fellow New Yorkers. +3 Shades Lighter

In an elevator, Christian bends over to tie his shoe. He touches Ana’s ankle bone, which causes her to gasp aloud. Then he fingers her in public, inches away from an elderly couple who are politely pretending they don’t have a right to call the police. +3 Shades Darker

Interior: Ana’s apartment. Ana walks around for several minutes, building suspense. On the counter there is an enormous bowl of fruit — plums, apples, pears, limes. We wonder who is going to eat this bounty of fresh fruit, considering Ana barely lives here. We wonder whether a dark surprise is coming, or whether this is just a nice break from near-constant sex in the only position permitted by Mormonism. We wonder whether Dakota Johnson is wearing a wig because her hair is truly incredi— Oh shit, that Doc Marten girl is here! She was uninvited; she is looking pissed. +3 Shades Darker

Gun! +1 Shade Darker

Gunshot! +1 Shade Darker

Christian, the Young Pope, puts his hand on the gun-girl’s head and she drops to the floor like a tamed kangaroo. +1 Shade Darker

Sort of

After taking Gun Girl to the hospital, Christian tells Ana he’s not a dom, he’s a sadist, and if you’re a Freud scholar or hobbyist, you’ll know that this sexual inclination is because of his mother. Ana, always a little late to the party, realizes that Christian gets off on hurting women who look like his dead mom. It bothers her very little, because at least she was lucky enough to look like his mom so he would fall in love with her. +5 Shades Darker

British pop star and America’s Next Top Model host Rita Ora is in this movie! +1 Shade Lighter

Christian is in a business trip helicopter crash. +1 Shade Darker

Ana and Christian’s family (including Rita Ora) are watching the news at Christian’s apartment for information about his disappearance. As soon as the anchor says, “Breaking news: Christian Grey has been found!” Christian saunters through his door like a sitcom character entering a scene. The audience in the theater is the laugh track. Christian doesn’t look like he was flying a burning helicopter into the ground mere hours ago, but his hair is much more ruffled than usual. + 1 Shade Lighter

Except it turns out Christian’s safe arrival home is actually the movie’s darkest moment. It allows the audience to consider an alternate timeline where Ana finally gives up on pleasing her demanding missionary-sex partner and goes on to have a fulfilling, human-like life. +15 Shades Darker

Ana quotes “I Thought I Lost You,” a John Travolta-Miley Cyrus duet from the Disney film Bolt. She says, “I thought I lost you.” +1 Shade Lighter

Ana gives Christian a light-up keychain that says “Seattle” on the front in a script font. On the back it says “Yes!” in Comic Sans. The newsstand she bought it at had gift boxes. +2 Shades Lighter

The keychain is a response to Christian’s marriage proposal. +20 Shades Darker

Newly engaged Ana says “take me to… the Red Room.” +1 Shade Darker

In the Red Room, Ana and Christian cover each other with oil, do some more stuff with her ankles, and have more sex in the missionary position. It’s extremely boring, so Kaitlyn and Lizzie take this opportunity to eat some of the snacks they smuggled into the theater: Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies crackers, one warm cheese stick, and 15 to 20 chocolate-covered almonds wrapped in a paper towel. +3 Snacks, +3 Shades Lighter

At Christian’s birthday party, his adoptive mother, Marcia Gay Harden, learns that her BFF Kim Basinger used to have sex with Christian. Harden slaps Basinger in the face. +1 Shade Darker

In real life, Harden and Basinger played similar femme fatale-ish roles in various moody noir films in the early 1990s. It’s a film fact. Lizzie and Kaitlyn share it. +1 Shade Lighter

Ana throws a martini at Kim Basinger’s face. Kim’s face has, overall, taken a beating. It’s not totally clear what she’s guilty of, other than ominous warnings, but okay. Another conflict resolved with soft violence. +1 Shade Darker

Underground water garden. +1 Shade Darker

Fireworks. +1 Shade Lighter

Camera pan to Jack, Ana’s old boss (not in prison because no one called the cops). He is now wearing a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette to indicate his full transformation to evil. He’s standing on the grounds just outside the party where Christian and Ana are happy, safe, engaged, and completely unaware of his diabolical plan. Jack is holding a photograph of Christian’s family, and he burns Christian’s face off the photo with his cigarette. +1 Shade Darker

The credits roll to the tune of “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift. Lizzie and Kaitlyn leave their seats, astounded, happy, queasy from cola. They swap impressions of the film while they exit the theater, as do most people around them. Kaitlyn waits in the line for the women’s bathroom while Lizzie stomps angrily into the men’s bathroom, muttering “There are stalls in here too, you know.” They take the 3 train to Brooklyn. The night is over.

As they drift off to sleep, they ask “How many shades darker is Fifty Shades Darker?”

This is a bonus, as only 50 shades were advertised. Therefore the money you shell out for a ticket to Fifty Shades Darker will be well-spent, so long as you have the luck to sit in a theater with moviegoers as jovial and alert as we did. Laughing with strangers is a positive experience, even if one of the strangers isn’t laughing and is actually whisper-screaming at you every 10 minutes. If your showing of Fifty Shades Darker happens to include a whisper-screamer, just ignore her and laugh anyway, and hope that she finds peace within herself at a later date — like Ana and Christian did. (For now.)


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