I finally got my butt to the movie theater to see the second movie in E.L. James's famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) series. And I've stated before how going to the movies actually almost makes me break out in literal hives amongst the candy-wrapper crinklers and coughing cows. But for some reason, I had myself a marvelous time in a rather rowdy group of movie goers. Interestingly enough, there were laughers, clappers, snickerers, gaspers, and aww-ers among us, and I found myself joining right in along with my finger-pushing-into-my-movie-partner's-thigh moments.

And while the verdict is still out about the message of James's tale, the argument about abuse — Is Christian Grey just a stalking abusive boyfriend?, the debate regarding BDSM and the idea that "there must be something wrong" with a person to enjoy sadism or masochism, and the overall separation of the lovers and haters of James's writing, my review isn't going to attempt to weigh in on those issues. It's been done. Ad nauseam. I'm here to break the movie down into three categories: Characters. Sex Scenes. And Overall Comments/Rating.

Okay. Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. Stiff as a board — his acting (no, not his penis, get your mind out of the gutter, though his hard-as-a-rock body made me forcefully push my mouth shut with the palm of my hand on more than one occasion). But better than the first. He seemed less uncomfortable in his role. But he doesn't come close to portraying and exuding power and control and sex appeal the way one imagines when reading the books or listening to the audio. Trust me. I've done it enough times to almost have it memorized the way I have Macbeth memorized. He's cute, I will concede to that, and there were moments he shined — the sparkle in his eyes when his licked the Ben Wa balls. I wondered how that scene was going to play itself out on the big screen. The ball (er…balls in this case) wasn't completely dropped by any means, but it didn't have the same emotional tug, it had when reading it.

Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele: She nailed it in my opinion –  I found her stronger than the character in the book. There was no inner goddess cluttering up the storyline and that was a plus; and I dare say, she looked damn good in garters and heels.

Kim Basinger as Mrs. Robinson, aka Elena: No. Just no. Just no. No. No. Pumped up with Botox and collagen, her face couldn't express a damn thing. Her presence was anticlimactic to such a tragic flaw, I wanted to throw some of my candy at the screen. Mrs. Robinson is a fantastic character in the books, a critical person in Christian's life. There should have still been some chemistry between them, as close as they were. Some connection. Dead fish? I don't even eat live fish! No thanks. I needed tension. Drama. And when Mrs. Grey overhears the dreaded "secret," there hasn't been any build up to pathos of any sort! Huge miss.

Where Dr. Flynn should be!

Missing character: Dr. Flynn. Another gigantic miss in my opinion. To understand the psychological aspect of Christian Grey, to give this tale depth, eliminating Dr. Flynn really disappointed me. I loved the depth Dr. Flynn brought to understanding the character of Christian, to see an organic friendship where Grey gets challenged is a defining moment in the book. It rounds out Grey's character to have that relationship. It makes us empathize with him more. It makes him more human and less robotic. Terrible directing choice to eliminate Dr. Flynn and the psychological aspect of the story that follows Grey's path to childhood trauma recovery.

Eric Johnson, as Jack: I liked him! Not at all what I pictured while reading the books…and yet, I felt he nailed it. Charm and swarm meet and BAM! Creepy is taken to new levels. He made me squirm and not in a good way, precisely what he was meant to do.

Dakota Johnson with Jamie Dornan in FIFTY SHADES DARKER.

2. SEX SCENES:

I thought the director pushed the envelope on this one. I blushed. I shifted in my seat a little. And my eyes turned to little balls of coal a la Puss in Boots while watching. Keeping it R rated was the goal but I dare say, I wasn't disappointed. My smirk was firmly painted on my face during the elevator scene. I was pleased it was kept intact. "Don't come." Uh-huh. More of that please…

First Sex Scene: Umm…hello and yup. One wrong move and holy sweet Jesus, we would have had ourselves a triple x meltdown. Let's just say seeing the top of Christian Grey's head vs. the mediocrity of his face was one of the highlights of the movie (yes — you read that correctly. Plural).

The Red Room of Pain scene. Fell short. Big time. But it did in the book as well. Where was the pain? And my delayed gratification? Fail.

Watching Christian Grey Workout scene. Okay. Yum. Holy yum. Sweaty sex never tasted so good. I mean felt. I mean looked! Never looked so good.

And Oil scene. Some say it was too much. I say, slippery nipples never can be too slippery. That is just a simple oxymoron! I think the cinematography of it was a bit beautiful to be honest. So I say, the oil sizzled!

Dakota Johnson opposite Jamie Dornan in FIFTY SHADES DARKER.

3. OVERALL COMMENTS:

It's hard to review a movie wherein you've read all the books. They almost never live up to the images one creates while reading. Here's the good news:

It is better than the first.

The important scenes are kept.

The acting isn't as stilted and there seems to be a bit more chemistry.

The plotline is more interesting.

The two leading characters have moments of beautiful eye candy. Dakota Johnson is stunning in a silver gown; Jamie Dornan wears no shirt better than anyone.

And the music is off-the-charts dead on. Downloading now.

Here's the less-than-stellar news:

The beginning is beyond slow.

The intensity and feelings aren’t there the way they are in the book (which first begs the question — have you read them and do you like them?). I don't believe the characters, and that's a shame. My belly flip-flopped while reading the books. That isn't here, even if I squirmed a bit during the sex scenes. It felt like watching sex, not passionate lovers. The buildup, the tension, and their chemistry just isn't fully there. There are glimpses but not enough to have to go home and change the ol' panties.

The casting is off in too many places — See above and add Christian's sister and Ana's best friend to that list. Not doing it for me. Not by a long shot.

And eliminating Dr. Flynn = a huge loss, so much so, I needed to mention it again here.

RATING: I give Fifty Shades Darker a 3–3.5 out of 5 stars. Will I see the last one? Yes. Of course. Word of advice though. Don't read the books without some serious distance and memory loss. It will only disappoint if you're a fan of them. But if the "inner goddess" of the books made you want to slam your head against the wall consecutively and repeatedly until you could only see grey, you might actually conclude that Fifty Shades Darker is worth the five point zero dollars it costs to hit the matinee.

R.B. O’Brien is an erotic romance writer, blogger, poet, and a founding member of the literary and art group, The Nu Romantics. See her website here and follow her here on Twitter.

The Nu Romantics were founded as a revolt against certain modern artistic conceptions, with a firm belief that, “We are connected as humans in our life experiences, and if we can express that through art that renders emotion in a reader or viewer, including erotic aspects, that is romantic.” Learn more about the NuR Facebook group here, check out the Nu Romantics Twitter presence here, and the group’s publication via Medium here.