It’s no secret that I think the books are awful (if you care about that lengthy ramble, it’s over on my Goodreads account). But, I’m willing to go into the cinema with an open mind when it comes to this. I can see the benefits this book series has had, even more so considering I work in Ann Summers, but I think that the transition of the series to the big screen will have some fundamental issues.
First of all, I don’t really know Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam or their work, cast as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey respectively, but I think they’ll have trouble playing likeable characters. This goes back to the book. Ana is a horrific character, portrayed as an intelligent girl when in reality she’s consumed with the wrong things in life. She’s a pushover, and is ultimately dazzled by money and beauty, nothing else. Christian, on the other hand, is a complete control freak, complete manipulative and a horrible person.
People will swoon over Charlie, and rightfully so. He’ll be a sexy, rich man with power and strong sexual desires. But they’ll overlook his manipulative, stalking, possessive behaviour and find those traits desirable. Basically, Christian Grey has been a pathway to fantasising over having a terrible partner. (It’s okay if he’s a billionaire, apparently).
And that’s where I think the issue with the movie will lie. There’s so little plot to cling to that certain factoids will have to be focussed in on. Christian’s character defects can, at a push, be attributed to his damaged past and I think this will be a main plot line. But, they’re more often than not attributed to the fact he is a Dominant, which in turn is attributed to his damaged past. There’s little sway away from that in the book, and while I think Sam Taylor-Johnson is probably above the project, I’d be interested to see how she tackles this issue. It would be very easy to fall in line with EL James’ poor portrayal of a Dom/sub relationship and their motivations.
More so, I’m 99% sure it will be split over the three movies and, honestly, there’s enough plot in the three books to fill one, just about. It’s the new must-do thing to split a book series into as many movies as you can muster, but there’s not enough there to warrant a trilogy. I just keep seeing it return to the point of the actual plot points having to be drawn out and really explored to fill time, and in return it’s going to exacerbate the negative Dom/sub connotations that screamed out in the book.
Then comes the sex. It can’t be a porno, and it’s being described as softcore, so really they’re going to generally factor out much of the sex and focus on the (shudder) story. It’s an odd point, because the book was sold as risque and BDSM, when it never really was:
This isn’t even a BDSM book, like I had been told, this is a book about a couple coming from two sexual extremes to find a balance and fall in love. Nothing they actually do is extreme and I find it surprising that anyone reading this thinks so.
This perception was never really corrected, so the movie is being sold that way too. But it actually cannot be. Sure, you can have some crafty camera work to hide certain things, there’s implications of kinkiness, but we’re all estimating this will be a 15, not 18. Though, every conversation I’ve had has been with people who think the 18 rating would at least push for something a bit more true to the book.
See, my potential issues with the film are the same as the book, and so are the compliments. Good on it for getting people to have kinkier sex – I still get people coming into my work asking for “the things from 50 Shades” because they’re curious. That’s a good thing. The film will be an extension of that.
But it’s whether or not Taylor-Johnson can overcome the clear obstacles in the book that I’m interested in. I will go in with an open mind to the movie, but I’m certain that the first sign of Dominants being painted as broken people, the movie will have hit a slippery slope. I do think that they’ve chosen a good director for the project, and I admit I was surprised she accepted it. Some directors would go straight in with the book, but there’s a spark of hope that Taylor-Johnson will try rectify certain ideas that were originally off, but I think Christian as a character is too difficult to make likeable, no matter how much focus they put on his looks.