It’s one of those phenomena that seemed to come out of nowhere. All of a sudden there was a book called “Fifty Shades of Grey” and everyone was reading it. Basically thought of as something of a “naughty” book, it quickly gained a reputation for being rather raunchy with its depictions of unusual sexual acts, and thus it became the topic of gossip in a multitude of literary circles. With such popularity, it’s hardly a surprise that someone would snatch up the film rights and try to bring the worldwide sensation to the screen, taking a rather big risk in the process. Where does one even begin when trying to adapt a novel that is known primarily for its sex scenes into a film? Fans of the book would no doubt think of this question almost immediately, though it would hardly stop them from wanting to see the end product. However, for everyone else, it just might have been an early indicator for just what kind of film that end product would be.
As the film opens, we meet Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a literature major who is conducting an interview with millionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for her sick roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford). The interview is a little awkward to say the least as Ana is a little intimidated by Christian, but he is taken with her almost immediately. Visiting her at work and “rescuing” her from a bar, he finds any excuse to be near her. She is hesitant at first, but she too finds herself wanting this relationship to happen. As the two spend more and more time together, Ana finds out just what kind of relationship that Christian is into. He doesn’t do flowers, cards, movies, dinner, etc., but rather something else altogether that many would find completely off-putting. However, Ana ends up being somewhat intrigued by the odd physical nature of what it is that Christian likes to do, but how far is she willing to go to make it work?
There are no doubt many who wanted to see this film come to fruition, if only to see how on Earth it could be done. However, in trying to bring this story to the screen, the filmmakers seem to have ignored the fact that, fundamentally, the film doesn’t work in the first place due to there not being an actual solid plot to move it along (Keep in mind, I’m strictly discussing the film as I’m one of the few who did not read E.L. James’ novel). It appears to want to be about the relationship between these two people who clearly have some major issues that need to be worked out, but if this was the original intent, then having them be nothing but flat, lifeless characters that could have come from any cheap romance novel off the supermarket shelf doesn’t do it any favors.
For its two-hour runtime, we never get the sense that we are watching actual people, but rather cardboard stand-ins that are perfunctorily going through the motions of these sexual acts. Aside from this, if the filmmakers are looking to elicit sympathy for these “damaged” characters, having them be into some rather disturbing behavior is not the best way to go about it. Sure, there may be a small niche that finds that appealing, but it’s more likely to push away the majority of the audience even more.
So what is it that “Fifty Shades of Grey” truly wants to be? A romance? There’s not much of anything that you could call “romantic” throughout the film, especially as you get into the later scenes. A character drama? Such a film requires character development, an element this film sorely lacks, or at the very least a reason to care about what these two are going through, another aspect which the film fails at. What we’re left with is a film that is little more than a string of sex scenes thrown together in hopes of scintillating the audience.
This result may be enough for those who were looking for nothing more than a soft porn flick, but anyone looking for even the slightest bit more than that is doomed to be disappointed. Again, I’ve never read the novel, so perhaps it has a lot more plot and character development to it, but if we’re to believe that this is an accurate representation of it, then it would appear that it was best left on the shelf, or perhaps in the hands of fans who at least got a little excitement from reading it. Whether the problems sprung directly from James’ book or whether something got lost in the transition, this is an adaptation that simply doesn’t evoke any of the emotions that it so desperately wants to convey.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” makes its Blu-ray debut in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that features a perfectly crisp and clear picture, which allows you to see everything you’re intended to, even for the darkest and most explicit of scenes. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is also flawless, giving everything from the dialogue to the soundtrack in excellent quality. Overall, there’s not a single complaint to be had in either area.
The World of Fifty Shades of Grey: A collection of short featurettes that explore the characters, actors, and more, featuring interviews with the cast and crew. If you’re interested in going deeper into these areas, then you might find it of interest. At the very least, you get a good chuckle when they try to discuss how “complex” the characters are.
Behind the Shades: A “Making of” featurette that includes lots of interviews with the cast and crew, who discuss the process of bringing the movie to life. Whether you end up liking the film or not, it’s still pretty interesting to watch.
E.L. James & Fifty Shades: A brief look at how the novel first came about and its transition to film. (Special note: James mentions that her inspiration for writing came from reading Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight.” Let that sink in for a moment.)
Fifty Shades: The Pleasure of Pain: A look behind the scenes of the film with the BDSM (Bondage/Domination/Sadism/Masochism) consultant. Again, if it’s an area that interests you, you may find it worth exploring.
360° Set Tours
Music Videos from Skylar Grey, The Weekend, and Ellie Goulding
Behind the Scenes of The Weekend’s “Earned It” Music Video
When you take a close look at “Fifty Shades of Grey,” it becomes painfully clear that it’s basically a plethora of sex scenes strung together with a bare minimum of support. However, even within that support, we see only random reasons for these two characters to find themselves together continuously. Granted, this film was most likely not put together with things like plot and characters being primary concerns, but because of that, the filmmakers need to take responsibility for the resulting product, which is a soft porn flick with nothing else to offer. Surprisingly enough, there are two more of these films on the way, so perhaps that is where the characters truly come alive… or we could simply be getting more of the same. Only time will tell as this directionless sexual odyssey continues.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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