Director Sam-Taylor Johnson has found the perfect performer to play her romantic lead in the adaptation of the hit erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey—someone who embodies sex, competence, power, wealth, and, not least, obsessive control. The enigmatic, sensual self-made CEO Christian Grey will be played by that other enigmatic, sensual, self-made icon, Beyoncé Knowles.
So, okay, not really. Still, having Beyoncé rework her gigantic hit "Crazy in Love" for the 50 Shades trailer is a stroke of genius all the more impressive because "genius" is adamantly not a word that one would normally associate with E.L. James's original series. Poorly written, shapeless, and interminable, clumsily rehashing dangerous-dude romance tropes from The Sheik via Twilight, the novels' success is one of those baffling pop-culture phenomena, like Robin Thicke or (as Beavis and Butthead have pointed out) Tom Petty. There are infinitely better romance novels; I have no doubt there's better Twilight fan fiction. As my wife's aunt said in her brief, devastating five-word review of 50 Shades, "It's not even that dirty."
But while the book may be amateurish, the trailer is anything but. Not that it totally transcends its source material; even in the two-minute snippet we're still treated to groan-worthy lines like "I had a rough start in life; you should steer clear of me." Jamie Dornan (the guy who's playing Christian Grey because they couldn't get Beyoncé) tries to give the pallid prose some weight by pausing significantly before informing us that his tastes are … singular, or telling Anastasia Steele that he'd like … to know more about her. You can't blame him for trying, but the specter of William Shatner high camp hovers ominously.
Still, a campy 50 Shades would be a major improvement on the charmless original, and if Christian Grey is going to spout on and on about how damaged he is, better to have him do so while flashing Dornan's shirtless pecs. Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele manages a nice mix of mousy hesitance and smoldering, aided by leading-lady Hollywood good looks and the absence of the hideously cutesy internal monologue with which E.L. James saddled the character. One could argue that the single best part of the trailer is that Anastasia does not once utter the words "Oh my!"