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Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 5/8/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/27/2018

When a movie is released, those who made the film hope that people will go see it. They watch the box-office results come in (typically over a weekend) and wish for the best. But, there are some movies where the producers simply sit back and assume that viewers will show up. These "front-loaded" movies, which are typically part of a series, have a built-in audience made up of devoted fans who will flock to the theaters no matter what. In theory, the powers-that-be could simply show a blank screen and millions would still arrive before word-of-mouth would stop them. This is why we get movies like Fifty Shades Freed, whose fans will be in-line on day one to see the film. Or would they be better off seeing that blank screen?

Fifty Shades Freed opens not long after the events of Fifty Shades Darker, as Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) are getting married. Following a wedding, which is attended by their family and friends, Christian and Ana fly off to Europe for their honeymoon. However, their fun is cut short when sabotage is discovered at Christian's company. But, they don't let this spoilt their mood, as they each get back to work, while also planning their future, which includes renovating a mansion. These good times don't last, as a sinister presence from Ana's past makes itself known, which something is also threatening her from within. Will their love be able to withstand these intruding forces?

DVDSleuth.com contributor Lynn Finsberry reviewed the first two Fifty Shades movies, so this is my first time taking a crack at one, and I must say, these are some weird films. The first thing which jumped out at me are the gender politics here. In fantasy films which are arguably aimed at men, the hero is a spy or an explorer and men picture themselves going on heroic adventures. In this film, the woman's fantasy is fulfilled by meeting and marrying a rich man. Is that a positive message to send? Yes, the film does try to portray Ana as strong and independent at times, but one could easily argue that it's easy to act strong and independent when you are married to a millionaire and can run back into his arms if something goes wrong.

The second thing which struck me about Fifty Shades Freed was its odd structure. You don't have to have seen the first two films to know that the series is built around sex, and there are several sex scenes here. But, the movie is also trying really hard to have a story as well, concerning Christian and Ana's relationship and the people who are trying to hurt them. So, what we get is an odd mish-mash of narrative scene which attempts to develop a plot and then a sex scene, and then a dialogue scene, and then a sex scene, and then, just for fun, a pointless montage. It's as if the makers of Fifty Shades Freed actually want to tell a story, but they know that there is a segment of the audience where is simply there to watch Christian and Ana get funky, so they must oblige them as well. The movie also contains two...let's call them action sequences, which really feel out of place. (And it's in these scenes where it's clear that Dodge had something to do with the movie, as the characters feel that they must point out Dodge cars.)

However, the strangest thing about Fifty Shades Freed is how ultimately tame it is. If you remove the sex scenes (or just fast-forward through them like I did), you have a movie which feels like and looks like a LifeTime film. The tepid drama mixed with the flaccid intrigue delivers a homogenized story, as this newlywed couple deals with the ups and downs of their relationship. As with the issues in tone discussed above, we have a movie which clearly wants to appeal to a key demographic, but doesn't want to try anything truly radical and scare people off.

I completely understand that I am not the target audience for Fifty Shades Freed and I had few expectations going into the movie, and I still came away feeling disappointed. The trailer for the film implies that Arielle Kebbel will have a significant role as a rival for Christian, but she's only in the film for a few minutes. The sex scenes are...whatever they are and the attempts at action fall flat. The true weak link here is Dakota Johnson. She appears to be sleepwalking at all times and it's hard to get behind a character who fails to seem excited about anything. Still, these movies make money so I guess that someone out there likes them. But, if you aren't part of the cult and you are looking for quality cinema, feel free to look elsewhere.

Fifty Shades Freed does not have a character named Fred on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HEVC transfer which runs at an average of 70 Mbps. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The image shows an impressive clarity, with no obvious pixelation. The colors look very good and are quite bold, and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth places the actors clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-X audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While that bitrate is a little lower than what one would expect, the audio here is fine, especially for this kind of film. The music fills the speakers and crowd scenes deliver notable surround effects. The car-chase sequence also brings us some unexpected subwoofer action.

The Fifty Shades Freed 4K UHD contains a few extras. We get one DELETED SCENE which runs about 1 minute. "The Final Climax" (33 minutes) is a series of nine brief segments which examine various segments of the movie. These pieces take us on-set and features comments from the cast and creative team. This focuses on how certain key scenes were done, such as the wedding, and also look at some of the film's themes. "Christian & Ana by Jamie & Dakota" (6 minutes) has the two actors describing their characters and the paths which they've taken through the three movies. "An Intimate Conversation with EL James and Eric Johnson" (9 minutes) has the author and actor discussing some specifics from the film. The extras are rounded out by three MUSIC VIDEOS, "For You" by Liam Payne & Rita Ora, "Capital Letters" by Hailee Steinfeld X Bloodpop, and "Heaven" by Julia Michaels.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long