We've made it. From Grey to Darker to Freed one of the most unlikely of cinematic franchises has come to a close. Fifty Shades Freed, the concluding chapter of E.L. James literary phenomena ends in a fashion similar to how it all started. In all honesty, the series never improved from one film to the next as the brave lead cast Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan worked their best through stilted dialogue, lame plotting, and plenty of exposure. If you enjoyed the ride thus far, Freed is a fitting conclusion but plays more like a protracted epilogue than a final chapter. Universal brings Fifty Shades Freed to Blu-ray in fine order with a strong video transfer, an effective DTS:X mix, and a small assortment of bonus features to pick through. If you've never seen any of the Fifty Shades films or read the books, this isn't the place to start, but fans should get a kick out of it. For The Fans.
The cynical 20-something film student in me is screaming mad at the older 35-year-old version of myself. 10 or 12 years ago, it would have required a drastic temperature drop in Hell for me to even consider watching any of the Fifty Shades films. And yet, here I am. I somehow made it all the way through this oddball franchise of kink and picturesque scenery. While I found the first film nearly unwatchable and gave Fifty Shades Darker a right good thrashing this time last year, after watching through Fifty Shades Freed I've fully embraced the idea that these films and their literary inspirations just aren't worth hating. Freed hardly feels like there was enough material left to craft an entire film out of and instead feels like a really long epilogue to Darker. It's still unintentionally hilarious, so the film at least can be enjoyed ironically. While there may be all of 20 minutes worth of plot, the film makes great use of its attractive stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as they once again jump into the belly of the beast, take one for the team, and give audiences something other than their faces to stare at for 2 hours.
Uber-rich boy and master of kink Christian (Jamie Dornan) has decided to settle down and wed the one woman who could ever tame him, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). Unfortunately, the beautiful wedding doesn't cleanly segue into a blissful relationship. On top of Anastasia having to learn her place within an empire of wealth, power, and the immense privilege she married into, she must also contend with her husband's new-found arenas for dominance. As the pair try to work out their differences on the streets as well as under the sheets, they will have to deal with the scorned and vengeful Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) and his plans to topple Christian's empire and destroy the happy life Anastasia is trying to build.
So, from that description, you might actually believe that there is something of a plot to this film. Well, don't let that fool you, there isn't. Like I said in the introduction to this little review, there are about twenty minutes of genuine story development and plot that probably could have been tacked onto the end of Fifty Shades Darker negating the need for a third film entirely. All of the stuff with Christian becoming a stiff ass about Anastasia not taking his name professionally or his need to have her surrounded by round-the-clock security is a snap of the fingers plot. That stuff with Eric Johnson's Jack Hyde - god do I hate that name - doesn't really go anywhere. It's padding to keep the movie going along allowing for plenty of steamy interludes between our two lead stars. That's about it. But then again, if you've made it this far into the franchise, you shouldn't have expected anything more from it than that.
As the credits roll for Fifty Shades Freed you do get the sense that this franchise was so inconsequential that it was never really worth hating on to begin with. It was never dramatically structured in a way that made you feel like it could have ever been better and even the kinky bits and parts were never so outrageous as to spur any worthwhile controversy. If Universal and its team of producers wanted to actually make something genuine out of this cash cow and maybe wind up with a series of films that had an edge to them and a lasting impact, they would have hired someone like Paul Verhoeven or Jean-Jacques Annaud to helm the ship. Someone who could at least added genuine grit along with the spit and polish.
If there is to be any credit dolled out for this Fifty Shades franchise it should squarely go to the series' leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. The pair staked a lot and exposed a lot of themselves for these films, so the least they should be able to get out of the deal is a lasting career in front of the camera with their clothes on. While I wouldn't describe their onscreen chemistry as anything close to genuine, you can tell the pair worked well together and they genuinely tried their best with what they had to work with. Considering all things, hype, millions at the box office, behind the scenes creative drama, the Fifty Shades films will probably be one of the quickest to fade from memory barring some misguided attempt to elongate the series with a fourth film. If you enjoyed the movies thus far, Fifty Shades Freed at least offers you more of the same. If you're not a fan, this film isn't going to change your opinion.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Fifty Shades Freed arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal in a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital set. Pressed onto a BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in a standard, sturdy 2-disc Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other Universal releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. The digital slip can be redeemed through Movies Anywhere.
Sure, the plot may be nothing great, but if there's one thing that has stayed consistent for the Fifty Shades franchise is how damn good-looking they are. Fifty Shades Freed has the refined and beautiful look of a travel documentary as our attractive lead stars get to visit some of the most lux and beautiful locations on the planet - and then take their close off. Point is, whether the scene is outside on a beach or in the bedroom, this 1080p 2.40:1 transfer looks great. Details are strong, colors are rich, vibrant with plenty of primary pop and presence. Needless to say at this point you can tell flesh tones are accurate and healthy looking. Black levels and contrast are well balanced and give the image plenty of natural depth. Free of any digital artifacts or noise, this is a pretty stellar Blu-ray release.
Along with a robust image transfer, Fifty Shades Freed gets a nice auditory jolt from its DTS:X mix. While there isn't a whole lot of vertical activity of note, the added space those channels offer does work to spread things out and give the mix a natural quality. Dialogue is cleaning rendered throughout and never at odds with anything else in the mix. Sound effects have a natural presence and presentation along the surrounds. This isn't a very dynamic movie, to begin with, so don't expect a lot of sonic surround activity, but when it counts it works. There are various party scenes, club scenes, and a spot or two in a shower that actually sounds very lively and effective. Apparently, this film was also given a Dolby Atmos mix for theatrical screenings, but that wasn't included here and considering the film and its nature, I can't figure where or how that would have improved much over the DTS:X track. This mix is largely a front/center/side channel affair and to that end, it's very good.
Fifty Shades Freed hits the home stretch with a decent - not amazing but decent - assortment of bonus features. While a lot of what's here is the tried and true talking head stuff, but it at least does offer a look at what went into the making of the film.
The Final Climax (HD 32:39) This is the main bonus feature comprised of nine parts discussing various elements of the film from the story to the characters. Granted it's pretty thin stuff, but you can see that the cast was at least trying to give a little depth to their characters and explore some sort of meaning behind the thing.
Deleted Scene (HD 1:08) Really there isn't much to this moment so don't feel like you've missed something.
Christian and Ana by Jamie and Dakota (HD 6:02) As the mainstays of the series, the two actors are given a brief bit to discuss how things went throughout the series.
A Conversation with E.L. James and Eric Johnson (HD 8:52) This is another sort of talking head piece discussing the series and how far things have come in the development of the novels to films.
"For You" Music Video (HD 4:15)
"Capital Letters" Music Video (HD 3:51)
"Heaven" Music Video (HD 3:26)
When it comes right down to it, after three novels and their subsequent film adaptations, you're either a Fifty Shades fan or you're not and don't give a damn. I didn't read the books, but I saw all the movies. I wouldn't call myself a fan by any stretch, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained. These aren't great movies, they're not particularly well scripted or plotted - but they are fun. Whether you find the story endearing or if you're just a fan of trashy schlocky cinema, Fifty Shades Freed keeps up the tradition and brings the franchise to a close. Maybe we'll get a revival film in 30 years when the actors can convincingly play kinky grandparents who dominate a retirement home? Until that day comes, this is it. We are Freed.
Universal has done a solid job bringing Fifty Shades Freed to Blu-ray with a terrific A/V presentation and a halfway decent assortment of bonus features. If you didn't like the series from the start, this one won't change your mind. At this point, it really is For The Fans.