Part of the appeal of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy is its portrayal of the defiance of a man’s power. Billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) wants to exert his power over Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) – his sexual submissive turned girlfriend turned wife – both sexually and emotionally, and his ego gets bruised when she defies him.
“Fifty Shades Freed,” the third and final film with the cringeworthy slogan of “Don’t miss the climax,” begins with Christian testing Ana’s “love” for him. His feelings get hurt when she doesn’t change her last name at work after they get married. He doesn’t let her drive a sports car (which was an obnoxiously obvious product placement for Audi). He buys a house without asking her first.
The films have drawn criticism for promoting domestic violence; some students at Chapman even confronted director James Foley at a screening of “Fifty Shades Darker” on campus last year, accusing him of promoting abuse in the media. But Ana stands up to Christian. She fights back. She defends herself. And as the movie goes on, you start to think that maybe the trilogy will end with a female in power, instead of a male exerting his dominance.
But the film squashes all hopes of seeing a powerful woman on screen.
“Fifty Shades Freed” begins with a fairytale wedding. The first thing we see on screen is a giant rock on Ana’s finger that’s so extravagant it pains your bank account to look at it. They board a private plane to their honeymoon in France. “You own this?” Ana asks, looking up at the plane with a childlike awe. “We own this,” Christian answers – as if we are supposed to believe she didn’t know he owned a plane before getting married.
“Maybe the trilogy will end with a female in power, instead of a male exerting his dominance.”
Their first night back after their honeymoon – which contained many scenes with handcuffs I wish I could forget – Ana asks Christian if he wants to have kids. It becomes clear that this was a conversation they should have had before the wedding and the honeymoon in handcuffs.
The movie continues with little to no plot. Ana gets drinks with a friend after work even though Christian told her not to, so he gets revenge in the bedroom (trust me, you don’t want to know the details). Christian and Ana find themselves in a high-speed car chase, which is followed by a sex scene in a tiny sports car that really can only be described as fast and furious.
Overall, the best part of the movie came when a sex scene got cut short and someone from the audience yelled, “more!” As if on cue, another scene commenced.
The “climax” of the movie comes when Ana must gather millions of dollars to save her sister-in-law, who is being held for ransom. We learn that Ana is actually pretty smart; all we had seen up until that point was her sitting in a fancy office for a job that Christian had secured for her. In this moment, Ana is brave and powerful. She comes to the rescue – not Christian.
“Fifty Shades Freed” had so much potential. Finally, Ana was in charge. Finally, she was the hero. And then the movie ends with a text on Christian’s phone that reads, “Sir, I await your pleasure.” Cut to Ana sitting on the ground, half-naked and obedient, with Christian standing over her. End scene. End trilogy. End any semblance of hope for an ending that wasn’t completely predictable and didn’t feature a woman in a powerless position.