“The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!”
Now, let me be the millionth critic to break those rules… Back in 1997, David Fincher received a call from his agent, Josh Donen, who’d just finished Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club and tried to talk Fincher into reading it. Even at a brisk 208 pages, Fincher passed on it, protesting being too busy to read books. So Donen read the Raymond K. Hessel scene over the phone, the one where Tyler puts the gun to the convenience store clerk’s head and tells him, “I know who you are. I know where you live. I’m keeping your license, and I’m going to check on you, Mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then in six months, and then in a year, and if you aren’t in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead.”
“So I read it that night and I flipped out,” Fincher explained in an interview with Todd Doogan. “I was laughing so hard that I just said to myself, ‘I’ve got to be involved in this. If anyone should make this movie, I should at least give it my best shot.’”
Flush off of Seven and The Game, Fincher gave up his rights to the film’s final cut in order to secure the $67 million budget needed to gather an amazing lead cast of Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter and realize his nihilistic celluloid vision. Screenwriter Jim Uhls masterfully adapted the novel. First time director of photography Jeff Cronenweth captured the grainy, claustrophobic world bathed in filthy florescent lights. The Dust Brothers electrified us with their techno score.
So, in 1999, when the world teetered on the brink of a new millennium, rabid from the paranoia of a Y2K apocalypse, Fincher birthed a disturbing black comedy classic. It unsettled our collective cultural consciousness with all the subtly of a shock and awe missile campaign. The effect was polarizing to say the least.
Though most critics praised Fight Club’s inventiveness and energetic filmmaking, many were outraged by it. Roger Ebert called it “macho porn… the most frankly and cheerfully fascist big-star movie since Death Wish.” Across the Atlantic, London Evening Standard critic Alexander Walker declared, “The movie is not only anti-capitalism but anti-society, and, indeed, anti-God.” Even celebrated director Paul Thomas Anderson claimed it was “unbearable” and famously wished testicular cancer on David Fincher. Fincher himself claimed, “You don’t want people to jump up and go, ‘GOD, I love it!’ You love it? Seek therapy.”
“I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.”
Over the following decade viewing Fight Club mutated into a kind of therapy, a ritual cure for the spiritual ailment of American masculinity (my apologies to Jethro Rothe-Kushel). It forever effected how films would be made, as well as viewed in the new millennium. From its CGI ride along the firing synapses of the Narrator’s brain in the opening credits to its mindf**k twist ending, the film’s been mimicked, parodied and brazenly ripped off countless times since.
I remembering watching Fight Club opening night at a theatre and by the time the credits rolled, with haunting music of The Pixies, Where is my Mind, blaring from the theatre’s sound system, I was rendered speechless, motionless in my seat until the lights came up. I looked over at my buddies who’d come with me and saw the same shell-shocked meets post-orgasm expression melted on their faces. The experience altered our perception in a way brilliant art should. If I may quote Edward Norton’s nameless narrator, “I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I’d never see. I wanted to breathe smoke.”
And speaking of lines from the film, Fight Club is infinitely quotable. “The condom is the glass slipper of our generation.” “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” “You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen… F**k damnation, man! F**k redemption! We are God’s unwanted children? So be it!”
I am not going to bore you with a full synopsis, but if you’ve been living in a bomb shelter and have yet to see the film you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph as there are minor spoilers ahead. The story follows the existential journey of The Narrator (Edward Norton), a nameless office drone numbed by obsessive consumerism, neutered by banal employment and suffering from acute insomnia. He only finds sleep’s sweet release by infiltrating and empathically feeding off the suffering and despair found at terminal illness self-help groups. The Narrator’s sleep cure is short lived though when he crosses paths with Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), a kindred “tourist” edging in on his territory and threatening to expose him. During one of his continuous business flights demanded by the corporate hell he calls a job, he encounters Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a freethinking soap maker who charms The Narrator with a vibrant nihilistic philosophy and anarchistic energy. The Narrator returns from the trip to discover his apartment destroyed by a mysterious explosion in his absence. Now homeless, he chances calling Durden and eventually moves in with him. There are funny, overt homoerotic overtones in the courtship between the Narrator and Durden, but only in most macho, platonic way. Before long they’ve started the Fight Club, underground, bare-fisted boxing matches where men pummel awake their primal nature. However, as Fight Club grows into a viral sect responsible for escalating acts of social terrorism, The Narrator must discover who Tyler Durden really is and what he is up to, before the actions of the Fight Club cult lead to widespread catastrophe with possible apocalyptic consequences.
This is a brilliant movie, but not a perfect one. There are moments toward the middle of the film where the Project Mayhem narrative takes away from the intensity of Norton and Pitt’s chemistry and the story drags a bit, but it quickly pays off with some pretty iconic twists and turns. The climax and resolution might push the boundaries of suspension of disbelief, but it doesn’t lack for powerful, searing imagery ripe with subtext and symbolism. For sheer shelf life, Fight Club hasn’t aged at all and deeply rewards repeat viewings. It is a cinematic punch to your senses that will leave you wanting to climb right in the ring again for another go round.
Fight Club is presented on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 converted from its original 2.39.1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25-30 mbps. Fincher brings his stylistic visual flair to the film, creating a distinct dirty, battered and grainy esthetic. The film is darkly contrasted, saturated in fluorescent greens, city lights gold, fiery reds and bruised black and blues. It is an amazing improvement over prior DVD releases. The black levels are perfectly layered and the limited color palette vibrant. There is no artificial edge sharpening or DNR so common in hi-def transfers, so the grain delivers the intended ambience, but they have meticulously cleaned up any previous scratches and dust blemishes. The detail is stunning. For example, Marla’s cigarette smoke rolls like liquid silk and Tyler’s dilapidated mansion looks so grimy, you want to wash your hands just watching those scenes.
Although the video is deeply impressive, the audio is absolute perfection. Ren Klyce’s sound design and the music by “The Dust Brothers” make the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track throw down on your home theater system and show no mercy. The center channels are flawlessly mixed with the ambient effects. The surround is completely immersive, panning and swirling like the camera and highlighting the pristinely recorded dialog. The mix is as aggressive as the blood sport, with amazing attention to even the most trivial ambient details. Listen to the breaths, gasps and comments of the fight spectators when Tyler gets beaten by the Lou, in basement of Lou’s Tavern or the screaming steel and mind shredding shrapnel in the mid-air collision scene. This is peak of your career, demo worthy audio work.
David Fincher added a hysterical surprise to the opening menu that might have the more inpatient viewers convinced their disks had been switched or jacked up. Other than that, I haven’t found any Easter eggs. The Bonus Materials are presented in both Hi-Def (HD) and Standard Definition (SD) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound — unless otherwise noted.
A Hit In The Ear: Ren Klyce and the Sound Design of Fight Club: HD New and exclusive to this 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release. Remix the following four scenes with special introductions by the Oscar-winning Sound Designer.
1. “Welcome To Fight Club“
2. “Angel Faces Beating“
3. “The Crash“
4. “Tyler’s Goodbye“
Insomniac Mode: I Am Jack’s Search Index, Commentary Log, Topic Search: New and exclusive to this 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release. Search the topics of the film in a very precise alphabetical order of subjects and then skip to those scenes or commentaries mentioning that in the film. Also you’ll be able to activate a pop-up menu that will display real-time information about the topics being discussed in the 4 different Audio Commentary Tracks included.
Flogging Fight Club: (10:00) HD New and exclusive to this 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release. Combining excerpts of Spike TV’s Guy Movie Hall of Fame awards with behind-the-scenes material of Director David Fincher and stars Edward Norton and Brad Pitt work their speech for accepting the award for Fight Club and following them backstage afterward. An obviously intoxicated Mel Gibson hosts and seems to barely know what is going on once he finishes reading from the cue cards.
Behind the Scenes Vignettes: Production, Visual Effects, On Location: (Multiple angles and commentary) Divided into 3 sections: ‘Production’, ‘Visual Effects’ & ‘Location’, with selectable commentaries by: Visual Effects Supervisor, Kevin Haugh; Visual Effects Coordinator, Cliff Wenger; – Digital Domain Visual Effects Supervisor, Kevin Mack; and Digital Animation Supervisor/Producer, Richard “Doc” Bailey. The depth of choices is wonderful and you could spend over on hour just on this section.
Audio Commentary by David Fincher: Another wonderful trip to Fincher’s Film School.
Audio Commentary by David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter: Hysterical bantering and anecdotes from the director and stars.
Audio Commentary by Chuck Palahniuk and Jim Uhls: My favorite commentary. Deeply layered and informative.
Audio Commentary by Alex McDowell, Jeff Cronenweth, Michael Kaplan and Kevin Haug: Better than I had expected, with an insightful tour through this brilliant audio design.
Deleted Scenes and Alternate Scenes: SD includes:
1. “Chloe and Rupert” (0:53)
2. “Marla’s Pillow Talk” (0:35)
3. “Copier Abuse” (3:15)
4. “Tyler Quits Smoking” / “Jack Quits Work” (1:28)
5. “Angel Face’s Beating” (3:14)
6. “Walter” (1:39)
7. “Tyler’s Goodbye” (1:55)
1. “Theatrical Teaser” (0:47)
2. “Theatrical Trailer” (2:26) features 5.1 sound.
3. “The Eight Rules of Fight Club” (0:46)
TV Spots: SD
1. “Public Service Announcements” include “Jack’s” (0:29) and “Tyler’s” (0:37).
2. “Music Video” (3:32)
Internet Spots: SD Hosted by The Narrator (Edward Norton)
1. “I Know You” (0:33)
2. “Deliver Me” (0:30)
3. “Change Your Life” (0:25)
4. “Football” (0:29)
5. “Mona Lisa/Rel” (0:35)
Edward Norton Interview: In text.
1999 unleashed a slew of brilliant, game-changing movies including, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich, Election, Magnolia, Office Space and Oscar-dominating American Beauty. Each of these titles dealt with a form of social rebellion, but Fight Club bullies the point until you are both inspired and unnerved. It is truly daring and controversial filmmaking, taking so many risks it is like watching a narcoleptic tight rope walker with Tourette’s spasms and tics cross between two skyscrapers whilst tripping on acid. You just know he won’t make it, but you can’t take your eyes off the spectacle. Somehow Fight Club does make it across the abyss, but not before it turns pushes the spectators off into it. It is a polarizing film, and many abhor it as much as love it. So enter at your own risk and remember…
“The eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.”