LAS VEGAS – Universal Pictures ended its presentation to the world's theater owners at the 2014 CinemaCon convention Tuesday morning with an expected “surprise”: the first footage from “50 Shades of Grey.”
In case you have missed the pop culture phenomenon, E.L. James blockbuster novel is most notorious for the sexcapades and submissive/dominant relationship between super rich Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). That's hard to sell in an extended trailer for all audiences, let alone traditionally conservative theater owners. Instead, the preview focused on Anastasia meeting Christian for the first time, how he immediately knocks her off her feet (the insinuation is that no man has ever had this effect on her) and the “conflict.” That “conflict” was pinpointed in the last scene shown. Anastasia effectively says “you're trying to turn me into something I'm not” (paraphrasing) and his reply, “No, no I'm not” (again, paraphrasing).
A majority of the preview finds Grey wining and dining Anastasia with a helicopter ride, a fancy new dress and – surprise – a secret room he wants to show her. As for what everyone wants to know about – the sex – at one point we see a ghost image of Anastasia with what can only be described as a horse hair soft whip being brushed across her face. That's it. Anyone who thinks they will get more in a trailer will be very disappointed.
Universal or Focus Features (it's still unclear which NBCUniversal division is releasing the movie officially) are clearly selling this more as a souped up “Pretty Woman” romance than bringing S&M to a mainstream audience. You won't get a whiff of Lars Von Trier here. And, that was the most striking element of the footage. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson's independent filmmaking roots aren't evident here at all. “50 Shades” looks as glossy and slick as a Hollywood studio can make shooting a major motion picture in Seattle look like. This “50 Shades” is commercial with a capital “C” and one reason why Universal made sure it was the last thing they showed theater owners. Their message? “Don't be afraid to book this one. You won't be embarrassed and we're all going to make a lot of money together.”
As for the actors, Johnson appears to play Anastasia's wide eyed perspective appropriately and certainly looks good with a reddish brown dyed hair. Jamie Doran is handsome and has that debonair thing down, but…whether the two of them have genuine chemistry remains to be seen.
Universal did not reveal when a finished version of this trailer would be released to the public, but we'd guess sometime this summer (if not sooner).
“Fifty Shades of Grey” opens nationwide on Feb. 13, 2015.