Fifty Shades Darker: Five things you need to know

Erotic sequel opens ahead of Valentine's Day, but can the franchise whip fans into a frenzy second time around?

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as Christian Grey and Ana Steele 

The original Fifty Shades of Grey film smashed all box-office predictions to make $571m (£450m) worldwide. As the erotic saga returns with Fifty Shades Darker, the second part of EL James's best-selling trilogy, here's what you need to know…

Ana's over Grey… at the beginning

At the end of the first film, Dakota Johnson's naive young literature graduate

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Anastasia Steele walked away from kinky billionaire boyfriend Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), refusing to play along with his controlling games of bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism. Christian isn't giving up so easily, and Ana still has feelings for the brute, so the abusive dance is set to continue.

But things have changed. Ana has a new boss, publisher Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who takes a bit too much interest in his new employee, prompting Christian to get even more jealous and possessive. Then Ana meets Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), Christian's new business partner, who also turns out to be the older woman who introduced him to his kinky lifestyle in the first place. Fireworks ensue.

Old faces, new faces

Along with leads Johnson and Dornan, returning cast members include Marcia Gay Harden as Christian's mother, Rita Ora and Luke Grimes as his siblings, Mia and Elliot, and Max Martini as Christian's bodyguard, Taylor.

As well as Eric Johnson and Kim Basinger, the new cast includes Bella Heathcote as Christian's obsessive former submissive, Leila.

There's a different writer and director

Sam Taylor-Johnson stepped down from directing duties amid reports of on-set clashes with EL James during production of the first film. She's been replaced by James Foley, whose most recent work includes directing the Netflix hit House of Cards.

Screenwriter Kelly Marcel has also been replaced by James's husband, Niall Leonard, best known for his work on TV shows Monarch of the Glen, Wire in the Blood and Wild at Heart.

There's sex, but not enough for some

The sequel is "a sexual smorgasbord that ratchets up the heat" and gives the customers what they want: "a good, inventive sex scene every 10 or 15 minutes", says Pete Hammond at Deadline Hollywood.

Hammond says Darker is structured like a musical "where the story stops frequently to cut to some splendidly choreographed sex scene" and then moves on with the "plot" for another few minutes until it's time for another visit to the S&M closet. He also praises the cinematography for exploring "every pore of his stars' nubile bodies".

However, Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph complains the movie is an "alleged 18-rated, adults-only filth-fest that behaves like a flustered PG". The sex scenes are stylish enough, says Collin, but lack the "marble-cold, sculptural feel of the first film".

The critic also asks "would I sound like a ravening pervert if I complained they didn't go quite far enough, or that there weren't enough of them?" And as for Christian's Red Room of Pain, "there's something crushingly, sexlessly hobby-like about the place".

The music has improved

The Darker soundtrack shakes off the "gloom" of the first movie with some great pop tracks, says Michael Wood in the Los Angeles Times. The biggest pop moment is I Don't Wanna Live Forever, the "breathy duet" between Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift.

Wood also praises John Legend's "pretty, brightly orchestrated ballad", One Woman Man, Halsey's "throbbing, appealingly forthright" Not Afraid Anymore and Tove Lo's slick Lies in the Dark, which channels "sensuality". It does get dark at times, admits Wood, but he adds that The-Dream's Code Blue is "a gorgeously bummed-out confession in which the R&B auteur makes desperation sound kind of sexy".

Fifty Shades Darker is in cinemas across the UK now.

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