Appearing in theaters in 1999, David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Fight Club was destined to become a cult classic from its inception. The terse, sharp, anti-everything ideology (if you can call it that) of the film didn’t seem to match up with its leads, with the chameleon-like Edward Norton playing the role of the stale unnamed protagonist, and the Hollywood favorite Brad Pitt as the ruthlessly devoted anarchist. Failing to meet the studio’s box office expectations and its puzzling of critics are both results that no longer matter, because Fight Club exists as one of the 20th century’s last great cinematic contributions.
The film is told by an unnamed narrator (Norton) who’s a traveling automobile company employee that is suffering from insomnia. He represents all the excesses of late capitalism as he finds solace in perusing interior decorating catalogs, and seeks comfort in his micro-manageable lifestyle. In an attempt to ease his insomnia, he starts attending support groups, which inevitably becomes an addiction for him. At the meetings he meets the equally depressed yet manic Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), who is addicted to the groups for similar reasons.
After an explosion destroys his apartment one night, he calls Tyler Durden (Pitt), a soap salesman he had met on a flight earlier in the film. Durden’s anti-consumerist views and borderline anarchic ideals evoke a curiosity in the narrator that instantly binds the two. After a spur of the moment fight between them gives a brutal catharsis, they begin Fight Club as a means to channel their rage in this homogenous society.
Durden’s true motivations begin to surface as they snowball into Project Mayhem, an anarchic organization of disillusioned citizens looking to terrorize some sense into the world. When Marla begins a sexual relationship with Durden (“I haven’t been fucked like that since grade school”), things become even more complicated.
As most likely everyone knows by now, it gets quite interesting with the mind-trip climax, which I won’t spoil for the sake of those that haven’t seen the film. Even with the twist in mind, revisiting Fight Club any numerous times is always a riveting experience because there are things seen on second, third, fourth view that reveal all kinds of nuances in the editing (such as the Durden inserts) and double-meanings to certain lines.
Jim Uhls’s screenplay is a worthy mixture of well-paced cinema and true-to-work dedication that Palahniuk himself praised. The filmmakers get away with as much as they can in terms of staying true to the messages, and the sharp and relentless direction by Fincher enriches the storytelling in ways that only film can do.
Fox puts out another solid offering with the Blu-ray release of Fight Club, with a high definition transfer that is wonderfully done, capturing the mood of the film in all the right tones. The DTS-HD Master Audio is a notable upgrade, as it perfects the remarkable use of sound in the film. The packaging uses a graffiti aesthetic a la Banksy to illustrate the film’s subversive content. It’s tastefully done, and the artwork suits the film just right. The stenciled subtitle of the release hanging underneath the title stating, “You Are Not Special”, is a humorous mockery of the endless “special” editions that studios churn out to widen profits. This superb re-assessment of the film won’t elicit the same accusations, because it rightfully heightens appreciation for it.
Loading up the disc reveals the menu from Drew Barrymore’s 1999 film, Never Been Kissed, which is a smart prank that I’m sure will perplex a good number of people. The bonus features contain everything from the previous special edition DVD, including fascinating commentaries by Fincher, Pitt, Norton, Bonham Carter, Palahniuk, Uhls, and the technical crew. All offer varied and interesting insight into different aspects of the production and filming. There are also deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes vignettes, marketing PSAs, and other promotional spots.
Unfortunately, there is little exclusive to the Blu-ray that is worth talking about. There is a bothersome interactive feature which involves mixing with sound during key scenes from the film, while the Flogging Fight Club featurette has Fincher, Pitt, and Norton addressing their critics at a recent Spike TV award show. Needless to say, there could have been more attention given to the exclusives.
Nonetheless, watching Fight Club in high definition is truly like seeing it again for the first time, and the film’s gritty, vitriolic, and polemic efforts still resonate deeply in today’s social landscape. And while it might not be at the top of every (or any) critic’s list, it’s a revelatory experience that is worth repeating just to remind us of what daring cinema can accomplish. Ten years have passed, and although Barrymore’s Never Been Kissed was the more successful film of 1999, people will be talking about Fight Club for much longer, because passionate cinema like this never goes forgotten.