What I Want to See: The Fifty Shades Franchise

I kind of doubt that there is much overlap, between World’s Best Media’s audience, and The Fifty Shades audience, but hear me out, ok?

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The final Fifty Shades movie is upon us, and it seems like we may largely be done with this franchise altogether.  I personally don’t care whether or not it gets rebooted, or continued, but if it does, I have an opinion as to what I want to see from it.

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Now, let me be honest, I didn’t read any of the books.  I read a randomly selected page that my wife thought might entice me to read the entire book, and she was very wrong.  I did however go and see the first film with for Valentine’s Day, however many years ago that came out (was it two?  It feels like it was 5, but it’s been a crazy couple of years).  You may be surprised to hear this, but I didn’t think the film was as bad as seemingly everyone else did.  Don’t get me wrong, it was really bad, but there was a shining light.

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Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed the film, did as good of a job as possible with the combination of source material, and restrictions she was given.  For whatever reason, the studio dictated that she stick fairly rigidly to the dialogue from the novel, and the dialogue in the novel was apparently a complete dumpster fire.  “I’m Fifty Shades of fucked up!” is one of my top 5 least favorite movie lines of all time.

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According to my wife, there is very little description in regards to the visuals of the world, apparently E.L. James didn’t spend much time on setting or anything while typing away on her Blackberry. This allowed Taylor-Johnson to create a pretty interesting visual style.  One of the things that the film lets her play with is visual metaphors, and it enhanced the story immensely.  During the initial meeting with Christian Grey, the main character Anastasia Steele (God! I hate the names of so many fictional characters) is attracted and sexually aroused by him. While the dialogue and acting don’t do a great job of selling that point, there is a moment, immediately after the encounter, where Anastasia walks out of the building into the rain.  Now, this could easily be missed, but water signifies climax throughout the movie.  Later when they’re in the ‘red room,’ as Anastasia succumbs to Christian’s BDSM lifestyle, the camera pans up to a painting of water splashing hard against the rocks.

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I think this film, is similar to the problems that I have with the Star Wars prequels.  They stick to rigidly to dialogue that is not only awful, but also hurts the acting performances.  Had the studio not insisted on staying with the dialogue, then I think that Taylor-Johnson would have made the movie much more watchable.

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Now, that’s all in the past, and on this first go ’round, we got very little in the way of what I would have preferred (probably because I’m not the main audience for it.)  If there is a reboot, or further exploration of the concept, what I’d like to see is something different.  If you watch the movie Shame from 2011, you see an NC-17 film about a sex addict, which is gritty, and realistic, and harsh, but more importantly, it is sexual while not really being sexy.  It showcased Fassbender’s performance, as well as exposing many to a type of sexual behavior that they weren’t previously aware of.  That is what I’d like to see with any future Fifty Shades reboots, or reimaginings or whatever they come up with.  In this series you have a story that many actual BDSM practitioners have called abusive, because the author didn’t know what she was writing about, and very few people in the creative process knew enough to correct it.  Take these characters, adapt the story to conform into a more realistic BDSM relationship, scrap side plots, and dive into the psyche of the two characters, examine the roles within the relationship, show us why it works for these characters, water crashing against the rocks.  We’ve never seen that in mainstream film, and yes it would likely get an NC-17 rating, but if the subject matter, and acting, and pathos are all strong enough, with the “Fifty Shades” name on it, it could be really interesting.

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