It's finally time for another Fifty Shades film, you guys. After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, it was only a matter of time before they adapted the book's sequel, Fifty Shades Darker. The movie is set for release on Feb. 10, but before you make your Valentine's Day movie plans, know that if you missed it the first time around, you should probably see Fifty Shades of Grey before Fifty Shades Darker, even if it's not totally necessary to your understanding of the new film.
I'll be honest with you: Fifty Shades of Grey wasn't a movie about plot so much as it was about sex. Here's the basics of the story: girl (Ana) meets boy (Christian), boy introduces girl to BDSM, girl leaves boy — a classic love story if there ever was one, right? Knowing just these bare bones should be enough to get you through Fifty Shades Darker without much confusion. And, if you want to really be able to like Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), then I fully suggest skipping it. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian, sexy though he might be, is about one step away from stalker status when courting Anna. And his possessiveness is more creepy than it is sweet. Skipping Fifty Shades of Grey before seeing Fifty Shades Darker might make it easier to get behind the love story, especially because Anna looks a lot more driven and in control of their relationship in the sequel.
That said, there is one big reason why you should definitely see Fifty Shades of Grey before Fifty Shades Darker, and that's director Sam Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson directed the first film, but she left the franchise before production began on the second film. James Foley (House of Cards) took over the director's chair for Fifty Shades Darker and the third film, Fifty Shades Freed. Having a female voice behind-the-scenes mattered, as even Fifty Shades of Grey's most vocal critics cannot say that Taylor-Johnson failed to bring a feminist spin on the controversial material. She succeeded in going beyond the Hollywood male gaze and avoiding the exploitation and objectification of actor Dakota Johnson. The way she filmed key scenes between Ana and Christian as they navigate their sexual relationship is telling, as often times, Ana is framed in a position of power, and the nudity, while unbalanced, is not overly gratuitous. It will be interesting to see whether or not a male director manages to create sex scenes as respectful to the female body.
Bottom line: if seeing the entire arc of Ana and Christian's relationship isn't your reason to go see Fifty Shades Darker, then feel free to skip Fifty Shades of Grey before hitting the movie theater. However, if you're curious about the evolution of the love story and want to see how a change in director affects the film series, then, by all means, give Fifty Shades of Grey a shot first.