Back when Universal Studios first announced its plans to adapt E.L. James' voraciously read Fifty Shades of Grey for the silver screen, the erotic romance was dominated by heated speculation and extremely high expectations, specifically when it came to choosing its starring couple. But once the studio began rolling out promotional efforts, including a first trailer that serve out some punishment to YouTube and a soundtrack turning out to be a critical and commercial hit, a sequel was inevitable.
After the film's record-breaking opening weekend and massive worldwide gross, eclipsing $500 million, Universal officially confirmed this inevitability and announced the second installment, Fifty Shades Darker, for 2017. Recently, though, the sequel has been stuck lingering in a pre-production grey area of contract negotiations, director swaps, and overall, 'creative differences' - nothing new when it comes to successful franchises.
In a statement to THR, producer Michael De Luca now reveals that that E.L. James' husband, Niall Leonard, will be penning the highly-anticipated follow-up. As an established TV writer in the UK, Leonard could lend the next script what its predecessor was primarily lacking: experience.
Although the first movie did indeed perform well, pleasing most fans and improving upon its print counterpart (a rarity when it comes to book-to-film adaptations) it still failed to escape its own clichéd, melodramatic shadow and transcend its all-too-obvious fan-fiction roots (read our review). While it's unlikely the original author will be completely uninvolved with Darker -especially considering she lives in the same house as the new writer - having Leonard take the reins is certainly a move in the right direction, especially if he can thicken the plot and improve on some of the cringe-inducing dialogue.
However, given the nature of the Fifty Shades books, a complex plot with three-dimensional characters and subtextual dialogue may not be what the target audience (or subject matter) particularly demands. Perhaps the fun of reading and watching the erotic franchise comes simply from the shameless zeal of it all - a "what you see is what you get" kind of message.
While the books do explore heavier themes and issues, such as gender roles in relationships, violence against women, and sexuality in general, the focus never deviates far enough from Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele's traditional love saga. So attempting to toggle that line between classic romance and social commentary becomes tricky, even problematic. And ultimately, it may make the film what it never intended to be.
Do you think the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey needs to explore its themes in more depth? Or do you think it works just fine as a simple, cliche love story (with a bit more sex)?
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for the latest details on Fifty Shades Darker as this story develops. Production on the film begins early 2016.