If you remember, we ended the first film with Ana (Dakota Johnson; Black Mass) walking out on Christian (Jamie Dornan; Once Upon A Time) after he shows her what really turns him on – inflicting pain on women. Unable to cope with that anger in him, she leaves and tries to live her life alone. Unfortunately for her, Christian has decided he can't live without her and pursues her, even attempting to buy the company she currently works for. When she reluctantly agrees to have dinner with him, he (sort of) pours his heart out to her and she agrees to give him another chance but only if he will change.
Part two delves deeper into their relationship, and his past, with some bumps along the way. First, his former submissive, Leila (Bella Heathcote; Neon Demons) stalks Ana and shows up at Ana's apartment with a gun only to be subdued by her former "master" while Ana looks on in horror. Then there is Ana's boss who clearly wants her for his own and goes so far to sexually harass her at work. Finally, we have the face to face confrontation between Ana and Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger; L.A. Confidential) Christian's first lover and dominatrix.
With so much drama, you wonder when there was time for them to even have sex. But don't worry, there is plenty of that and more graphically depicted than in the first film. There are more "toys" and still some bondage to titillate your inner submissive. While Christian attempts to show his softer side, he still has control issues that he and Ana must work through to find their happiness together. I think fans of the books were a little disappointed that, while there was plenty of sex in the first film, it wasn't especially detailed enough, so, this time around, the filmmakers made those scenes more graphic, which should appease the largely female audience.
As I pointed out in my review of the first film, I think Dornan was the wrong choice for Christian. He simply isn't powerful and commanding enough to pull off the Dominant and that is nowhere more apparent than in Ana's apartment when he tells his former submissive Leila to kneel. That simple word should have shaken the audience to its core but sadly it didn't. While I preferred Johnson to him in Fifty Shades of Grey, I wasn't overly thrilled with her in this second installment either. She came across "mousy", which worked in movie number one, but she didn't step it up a notch in this second movie. And the "Easter egg" thrown in to pay homage to her mother's character in her classic movie Working Girl should have caused laughter but missed the mark entirely.
The visuals are stunning and director James Foley (House of Cards) did a terrific job bringing the "dream world" of the richer side of the Northwest United States alive. The sailing scene with its magnificent scenery especially stuck with me. He used numerous sets in which to engross the audience but his angles during the sex scenes is really what draws one in the most (besides the action itself).
While not a great film overall, I think fans of the books will be pleased with the outcome. Sadly, that isn't saying much as the movie drags quite a bit and the sex can be uncomfortable to watch at times. However, fans will get a softer side of Christian and a bolder Ana balancing the scales a little more than the first movie did.
If you take it for what it is, it's ok, but it will do well with a certain population of individuals at the box office and that is all the filmmakers can ask for based on the source material.