As script to screen goes, it’s not easy adapting a beloved story into something that rewards your visual senses.  After all, it’s the visual representation of a story that makes audiences flock to the theaters.  It’s also what caused many people to flock to a theater to witness the spectacle that is Fifty Shades of Grey.

In the film adaptation, our favorite Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) meets and falls in love with dangerous Prince Charming with a sadist edge Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan) and finds out about his extra-curricular activities that involve his “Red Room of Pain.”  Please note that this film is not for the young or the faint of heart.  It’s intended to be one young woman’s journey of love and finding herself.

Expectations were high for this film to be spectacular.  However, the long wait caused some astronomical expectations that the film doesn’t quite meet.  Screenwriter Kelly Marcel, the same scribe who wrote Saving Mr. Banks, made sure to highlight every major plot point of the book.  The film zips through every point to dizzying effect so that the 530-page book could be crammed and packaged into two hours.  This speedy race makes viewers grip their seats to keep from falling off the crazy emotional train that is this film.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson is so busy packaging the story into a neat 125 minutes that the story doesn’t linger on any scene long enough to make an impact.  The nuances, which author E.L. James painstakingly put in the story, are somewhat lost in the film adaptation.  It’s hard not to muse that Fifty Shades of Grey would have had a better chance at really captivating its audience if the first book had been broken up into two films, instead of one really long film.

Still, it’s not bad for a film based on a book that started off as fan fiction for the Twilight series.  Christian Grey is supposed to be Edward Cullen re-imagined as a sadomasochist and Bella is re-imagined as a strong-willed, funny sarcastic Everywoman. As you can guess, I prefer Anastasia to Bella, who is just plain weak and annoying.Many people, including first lady Michelle Obama have fallen in love with the book series.  So, it’s disappointing to see that our favorite sadist, Grey, is being played so safe by Dornan.  In the book, Christian has an ethereal presence that commands attention.  He’s cool, calm, collected, and no one ever sees him lose it; except Anastasia.  But, in Dornan’s portrayal, Christian seems to have lost some of his mysteriousness.

Likewise, Dornan clearly does not have much chemistry with Johnson; especially in the first half hour of the film.  They’re both great actors, but you can’t fake chemistry.  It’s either there or it isn’t.

Johnson, however, really gives Anastasia depth and light.  The character is less emotional, stronger-willed, and has a great sense of humor.  This Anastasia Steele doesn’t sulk about her boyfriend’s habits.  She tries to accept them with her sense of humor and then encourages a positive change.

The emotional heft that it took to do this film causes this critic to wonder about the well-being of the actress who plays Anastasia.  Is she okay?  How willing was she to be full-frontal naked on screen?  How does she feel filming something that could be considered soft-core porn that doesn’t measure up to its literary predecessor’s standards? Many actresses drop trough for the sake of artistic expression.  But, when the expression is not as artistic as it should be, they’ve basically wasted their time and effort for a film that’s not that great.

The film is still worth the watch.  Fans of the book series will recognize familiar scenes.  And, audiences who haven’t read the book, will appreciate the visual beauty of the film; even though the film is not up to par for the expectations placed on its shoulders from over a year of audience anticipation.  Here’s hoping Fifty Shades Darker will be better.