We’re ten years on from Fight Club. There’s still so much to talk about, but the text has been evaluated, eviscerated and analyzed a great deal over that time. Fight Club was an obsession for me when it came out; I saw it at an early screening and it spoke to me. I got it. And it became the movie I took people to see. I ended up in the theater at least ten times with different sets of friends to enjoy this brilliant black comedy. My review of Fight Club after the jump.
The film opens with an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) sweating and with a gun in his mouth. The gun owner is Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and a bunch of high-rise buildings are about to be destroyed. That’s the ticking clock, and the film then explains how Norton got there. The narrator is unhappy in his job and can’t sleep. He finds peace only when he goes to group therapy and pretends to be dying, getting hugs and support from people with testicular cancer, melanoma, and blood parasites. This rest is destroyed by Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), a chain smoking pixie who ruins the narrator’s illusion. Then he meets Tyler. After his apartment is blown up, the narrator moves in with Tyler at his creaky old house and then something happens: Tyler asks the narrator to hit him as hard as he can. The two begin fighting, find it awesome, and then encourage other people to join them. Their group grows, but then Tyler starts fucking Marla, which sends the narrator into depths of jealousy and spite. As Fight Club grows beyond the two, Tyler starts giving everyone involved projects. They are asked to get in a fight and lose, and then they start pranking the world, demagnetizing videos, getting birds to poop on brand new cars, and other mischievous acts. But then it grows even further into Project Mayhem, where the goals get even bigger and more illegal, and this sends a great divide between the two.
This is the plot for the first two thirds of the movie, but what I’m leaving out is the satire. The film mercilessly decries and acknowledges that the modern male has been raised (at least the lower middle class to middle class white kid) something of a wimp. As Tyler says, they are men raised by women, and the idea of having kids or getting married is beyond them, so they subjugate their feelings into fighting. It’s real. For the two men, sex is either non-existent or sport fucking, not letting women get close to you. And for those who’ve never seen the film, I definitely recommend it.
For those who have, let’s get into spoiler territory. I have a friend who hates the third act, and how it belabors the point of the reveal. For me, that is when the film is no longer about the actual text, and the bombs, and all that is the action, but it falls by the wayside – it’s the macguffin of the film. If you accept the reveal (which I will hint at but not directly spoil, even for a movie as old as this), then the film becomes about admitting to yourself (or the narrator) that he can be the men he’s idolized, and the final act of violence is the moment where the narrator finally admits that he can take responsibility for hurting himself and others. And then the end suggests that his final step towards maturity is – quite naturally – moving forward with a relationship. What some complain about the third act is the moment for me (which the film suggests by its frames of Tyler pre-introduction, or when Tyler directly addresses the camera) is that everything happening is obviously meant only for its symbolic purpose, and that when you get a bunch of disgruntled men together, eventually it will lead to something that transcends whatever good would come of it, because they – like the Narrator – fall under the sway of a cult of personality. In the end, to have those thoughts, to be a free thinking individual is the goal, and when the Narrator learns that he no longer needs a surrogate father, and is willing to deal with the consequences of his actions, then there is finally some resolution.
David Fincher had already shown some great chops with Seven at this point, but this was a gigantic leap forward into something beyond simple genre work. For a moment the film defined a generation, a generation of men who lived without war (as the film says) and were growing bored and complacent. But here his skill matches the narrative, so even though it’s flashy, it works in context. Playing with CGI in ways that felt revolutionary, the film is a constant amazement of composition and editing. The film may prove to be immature, but such is the subject. I feel at this point there’s not much left for me to squeeze out of this film. Spotting the small details were great, but at this point, I’ve seen the film enough, listened to all the commentaries and looked at all the extras, it’s a great film, but one I’m going to let sit for a while now. Maybe I’m past all this.
That’s no comment on the excellent transfer on the Fox Blu-ray. The film comes in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1. The disc opens with a gag that has now been spoiled. The transfer – of a film that has always embraced darkness – is note perfect and the surround sound is definitely demo-worthy. There’s a commentary with David Fincher solo, and a second with him, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. These are the money tracks, and done for DVD in its infancy, the commentaries are thoughtful and funny. What’s most interesting about the commentary by Chuck Palahniuk (the author of the book) and screenwriter Jim Uhls is when Palahniuk asks questions of Uhls about the names he’s chosen or a certain scene and the answers come on the other commentary tracks that discount Uhls’ work. Uhls doesn’t say why the characters are named Rupert and Travis (obviously a nod to Robert De Niro) or Cornelius (Planet of the Apes). The fourth track features production designer Alex McDowell, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, costume designer Michael Kaplan, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug. Though this is the most technically minded, I enjoyed this as well. “A Hit in the Ear: Ren Klyce and the Sound Design of Fight Club (25 min.) with an intro for the sound design, intros for four scenes, and options to mix the four scenes by speaker and by POV. “Flogging Fight Club” (10 min.) shows Fincher, Norton, and Pitt accepting an award for the film ten years after the fact, and the boys are nice and assholish. There’s also an “insomniac mode” search index that will take you to details about the making of from the film, while also an interactive commentary guide that tells you which each commentary is talking about while you’re listening to one. Crazy interesting.
There’s six Behind the Scenes pieces for “Production” for the opening credits (2 min. also with storyboards), the Airport Sequence (2 min, also with storyboards), Jack’s Condo (3 min. also with storyboards), Paper Street House (5 min.), The Projection Booth (2 min. also with storyboards), and “Corporate Art Ball (4 min. also with storyboards). Each featurette offers at least two angles and audio options, sometimes with commentaries. Then there’s nine “Visual Effects” pieces: Main Titles (3 min. also with storyboards), Furni Catalog (2 min. also with storyboards), Ice Cave/Power Animal (3 min. also with storyboards), Photogramerty (4 min. also with storyboards) Mid-Air Collision (5 min.), Sex Sequence (3 min. also with storyboards), Car Crash (4 min. also with storyboards), Gun Shot (3 min.), and High-Rise Collapse (5 min.). Most of these only have one audio track, but there’s a lot. “On Location” (5 min.) is the closest to a longer featurette on the disc, with random behind the scenes moments. There are seven deleted/alternate scenes (14 min.), two of which feature behind the scenes alternate angles. For those who ever wanted to hear Marla say “I want to have your abortion,” it’s here. The set also comes with three trailers, seventeen TV spots, two PSA’s (one each by Norton and Pitt), a music video, five internet spots, three promo material still galleries, and finally a print interview with Edward Norton.