Then when the pre-order was announced for the DVD, I wasn't sure I cared. I was borderline offended by the choppy nature of the film and it's unsexy boob shots that felt forced (and overtly male). They took away the sensual aspects of the first film and made the sexy somehow less sexy. But I kept thinking, what if the Director's Cut is better? So I ordered it, and wow... am I relieved.
Relief may sound odd, but when I think of the money and time the studio and all of those filmmakers put into this franchise, it would be terrible if all they had to show for it was that theatrical release. They could kiss the last opening for Fifty Shades Freed goodbye for me. My girlfriends too. I wasn't the only one in our party of eight who hated it. But I believe the DVD just might had saved them.
When I saw there were 13 minutes missing from the big screen version I thought there was no way that could only be sex. I was right. From the very beginning there are small tidbits that weave throughout the film that tell a very different story. A story closer to the text. Although important characters from the book like Dr. Flynn are still missing from footage, Ana's mother is there, which gives emotional depth to Ana's story. Simple situations like the casual dialog between Christian and Ana on the boat or the heated kiss in the alley show these two people navigating between their lust and their love. Without that dynamic, there is no way to believe Ana would put up with the amount of crap thrown at her. You have to believe that he's making the effort to change because he's fallen in love.
As the title suggests, this book had a darker tone, but the overly loud pop music under half of the scenes, mixed with jarring quick cuts and nipple close-ups left that tone out. In the extended version there are quite a few new scenes to love. Fans have pointed to the pool table scene as topping their lists, but as a filmmaker I look at the story first. Don't get me wrong, the playful and sexy nature of the pool table scene was a must in keeping the tone, but there were plot issues in the theatrical release that can't be fixed from losing a sex bet.
What I find equally insane is that no fan would refuse to buy a ticket because the film was 13 minutes longer. So why cut it? Why is there an arbitrary rule set on certain films to hit the 120 minute mark and not others? It's not a rule in American films by any means. In fact, the average length of films since 2000 has been 129 minutes. So why did they work so hard to bring a film under 2 hours to the big screen? I can't answer, but my guess is that some executives in charge at the studio gave the mandate and that's it. Shame. Not only would fans have returned to the theater to see Darker more than once (as they did with Fifty Shades of Grey which stayed in theaters 12 weeks vs. the 7 weeks Darker barely eeked out) critics wouldn't have been as hard on the film in reviews. Sure there would be film haters who would bash the film no matter what, but overwhelming critical response to Fifty Shades Darker was negative in comparison to the surprised or mixed reactions to the first film.
I still feel there is something lacking without the female eye Sam Taylor-Johnson and Kelly Marcel gave the material, but Dakota and Jamie managed to pull off a miracle in this trilogy by giving more interesting life to these characters. I predict Fifty Shades Freed DVD will outsell previous sales, and the theatrical release will decline because the audience will wait for the full story. They want the sex and the jokes and the awkward conversations the first time. After waiting years to see what could have been released already, many women will wait a little longer and just get the DVD.