Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the finale we’ve been collectively holding our breath for is finally here. The climax to the most unlikely literary success since the Twilight franchise. Will Ana and Christian live happily ever after in their naughty billionaire Seattle fantasy world? Will generic antagonist Jack disrupt their perfect bondage-clad, masochistic world? Will Christian’s wandering eye spark a jealous rage by his new bride? You have to find out for yourself during date night.

Or not.

The film begins with the wedding, creating some irony in the title. The bachelor of the century is finally off the market, but can he change his primal ways? The pair struggle to navigate married life, finally have the discussion about children (a bit late, isn’t it?) and face off against both of their past demons with some passionate relations sprinkled in, spending lavish amounts of money on adventures and luxuries while pretending to have careers of their own.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson remain simply acceptable in the roles. Johnson actually steps up to add a bit more depth to the character that was missing from the first two films, but that might be the result of slightly sharper writing and faster-paced direction. She didn’t bother me as much as she did in the first two films, but I still don’t see what Christian sees in her. Dornan was miscast from the start — nothing more than brooding eye candy. Audiences will swoon, but he’s not going to win any awards that aren’t named after a deep red berry.

Director James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross,” “50 Shades Darker”) improves slightly on last year’s sequel. Maybe the bar has been lowered, or maybe my perspective has softened after seeing the first two films. Either way, this one is a bit refreshing, and some of that success has to be attributed to the director.

The thing I’m reticent to share is that I bought into the hype. I read all three novels in a fairly short amount of time, and found myself waiting for something good to happen as I criticized the poorly constructed narrative. The 1,600 pages came and went without arousing any literary satisfaction on my part, yet I have to commend E.L. James for pulling a Rowling and staking nearly one $100 million on amateur female erotica. Well done, E.L. 

As I sat in the cold, dark theater, surrounded by overly excited women (I was literally the only man in the room) I began to suspect that I wasn’t the target demographic for this film. But what I keep wondering is what the real appeal is.

The film isn’t well done, the actors are pedestrian and perhaps even miscast in the first place, but then it struck me. “Pretty Woman,” “Cinderella,” “Twilight” and even Disney’s “Sophia the First” (I have a 3-year-old). They all carry this fantasy theme of a normal girl plucked from obscurity by a wealthy, suave, handsome man. It’s the fairy tale. But the wrinkle is the deep-rooted flaws in Christian Grey, so Anastasia not only gets her happy ending, but she gets an opportunity to fix an emotionally broken man. Two birds with one stone!

“Fifty Shades Freed” is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is better than its predecessors. Maybe the relief of knowing that this cultural phenomenon has reached its climax will help us all forget that it happened in the first place.