One of the great dualities of a franchise is the way that a string of movies can take on a collective identity (the way people talk about "the Harry Potter films", for instance) and be considered a whole, but can also individually take on their own, separate identities. The Twilight saga is a particularly good example of this, each instalment having a different vibe as shaped by the director at the helm.
And so, as Universal eyes its Fifty Shades of Grey sequel, I thought it would be fun to look at how the change in director could allow Fifty Shades Darker to have some serious fun, turning expectations of the franchise upside down and creating a movie with a memorable individual identity, whilst continuing to propel the franchise forward and do justice to the narrative of the books.
Who exactly is James Foley?
With Sam Taylor-Johnson out of the picture, having clashed repeatedly with E.L. James during production of Grey, James Foley has been recruited to direct Fifty Shades Darker. On first impression it's an odd choice - his last movie was eight whole years ago, the entirely unmemorable Halle Berry thriller Perfect Stranger.
But Foley has directed 12 episodes of House of Cards across three seasons of the Netflix show, which might hint at a more defined visual aesthetic for Darker.
Who's playing Jack Hyde?
With Darker set to begin filming soon, more casting news should be leaking out in the coming weeks, particularly regarding the juicy role of Elena, but already pretty substantial rumours are gaining traction regarding the role of Jack Hyde.
Hyde, as you already know, grew up in a foster home with Christian until the latter was adopted by the preposterously wealthy Grey family, and thus a grudge was born. This being an E.L. James work, the character is painted in pretty broad strokes, but that doesn't mean he can't be fun in the right hands - and word is that those hands will belong either to Ian Somerhalder or Theo James.
Somerhalder is the Lost star who younger audiences know best as Boone Carlyle on The Vampire Diaries, and has pretty much made a career out of playing bad boys with a certain charm, so it's not as if the role of Hyde would be a stretch.
Theo James, on the other hand, is basically the only person on the planet more handsome than Jamie Dornan, and asking us to believe that his Jack Hyde has spent fifteen years brooding about Christian Hyde's good luck instead of getting laid and living the high life might be too great a suspension of disbelief. You probably saw him last opposite Shailene Woodley in Divergent, although that series is so beige you may well have forgotten completely.
Personally, I would take James for the role of Hyde, if only because he usually plays good guys and it would be fun to see him go against type.
Taking cues from 'The Affair'
Okay, so purists probably won't be too hot on this idea (what's new?), but if Universal and Foley wanted to get truly creative with Darker, they could incorporate a dual-perspective narrative by adapting Fifty Shades Darker on the one hand, and borrowing from Grey, the new novel told from Christian's point of view. It would work a little like Showtime's groundbreaking new series The Affair, which tells the story of an affair from two perspectives - his and hers - which reveal conflicting details in the tale.
By giving us an hour of Darker from Ana's perspective, and then an hour of the same events from Christian's, Fifty Shades Darker could go beyond the limited scope of the source material and introduce the idea of an unreliable narrator, leaving us to wonder whose version of events is the more accurate, and why either party would want to twist their retelling in their favour. Not only would this create a sense of mystery absent from the novel, it would also give depth to Ana and Grey, two characters who are pretty much just surface-deep on the page.
Who could helm Fifty Shades Freed?
Wait, aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? Probably best to wait and see how the sequel turns out before we consider the threequel. That said, Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight movie, the first in the franchise, was also the best, and once she departed the follow-up films felt oddly anonymous, so she might be a solid choice to bring a little flair to Freed. But let's not assume a man isn't capable of doing this movie justice either.
Fifty Shades Darker lands in theaters February 14, 2017, which also happens to be Valentine's Day. What a coincidence! Will you be there, or will you just be watching the "highlights" in gif form on Buzzfeed? Keep your eyes peeled on Moviepilot for more Darker gossip and share your thoughts in the comments!