Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Fight Club (film)
Fight Club (1999) is a film based on the novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. It was directed by David Fincher and starred Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. It also featured an original soundtrack by the Dust Brothers. As of June 23, 2004, Fight Club is in development as a musical, developed by Palahniuk, Fincher, and Trent Reznor. A Fight Club video game was released in October of 2004, but it was mostly dismissed by hardcore fans of the book and movie as milking it for commercial worth.
The plot revolves around a nameless narrator (played by Edward Norton; referred to as "Jack" by many of the film's fans), an accident investigator for a major car company. During a severe bout of insomnia he starts attending support group meetings (one of which is a group for testicular cancer survivors). He begins to use the meetings as a vicarious source of emotional release and soon finds that he can sleep again. But when a strange young woman named Marla (Helena Bonham-Carter) starts disrupting his enjoyment of these meetings by showing up to them for fun, the narrator finds that his insomnia returns.
While returning from a business trip, the narrator meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a plane. Arriving at his apartment, he finds that it has exploded and has nowhere to go. He eventually finds the business card that Tyler Durden gave him in his pocket, and asks Tyler if he wants to meet somewhere. They meet at a bar and discuss materialism and the modern male. This then turns to the idea of wanting to get into a fight as a 'masculine rite of passage' and eventually begin to brawl in the middle of the bar's parking lot. The release of emotion and energy rejuvenates the narrator. So after moving in with Tyler, they start a "fight club".
As the revolutionary idea of the rejection of material goods and the individual animal aspect of the fight grows, so does the club. Soon, Tyler is distributing "homework" to the members of the club which grows into "Project Mayhem", an anti-corporate destruction squad led by Tyler. As the project grows, the narrator becomes increasingly disturbed by their actions and tries to stop it as one of the co-founders of fight club. He slowly uncovers their plan and soon discovers the real identity of Tyler Durden; he is a split-personality construct that exists only in the narrator's head and the actions that Tyler undertakes are actions that the narrator is really performing. The film climaxes with the narrator taking back control of his mind in a violent incident where he shoots himself in the mouth just as Project Mayhem's final act of vandalism takes place, destroying all the credit bureaus in an attempt to reset all world debt.
Differences between novel and film
Though the plot is mostly similar to the novel, some significant changes have been made in the film.
- Many of the lines taken from the novel for the film are given to different characters than they were originally said by. It is likely this was done because the narrator has more lines in the novel than the other characters, though other characters lines are also switched around (for instance, Tyler gives a speech that was originally given by a mechanic in the novel).
- Tyler's involvement in the storyline is often in the foreground of the film, while he is often unseen in the novel, his involvement being mentioned by the narrator in retrospect.
- Tyler Durden is a soap salesman instead of a beach artist.
- The narrator meets Tyler on a plane instead of on a nude beach.
- The narrator reads stories about "Jack" in the film, who was named "Joe" in the novel. This was changed to avoid conflicts with Reader's Digest over the use of the name (the articles read by the narrator were featured in the magazine).
- The first batch of soap made by the narrator and Tyler is made from fat from a liposuction clinic, rather than from Marla's mother as in the book.
- The scene where Tyler fights Lou (as well as Lou himself) did not appear in the novel.
- The narrator's fight with himself to blackmail his boss is at the car company in the film; in the novel, it was done to threaten his boss at the hotel where Tyler had gotten him a job as a waiter.
- The narrator is not entirely aware of what Tyler is doing with Project Mayhem and is more uncomfortable with the increasing destructiveness of their activities, rather than being partially in control of it as in the book.
- The confrontation with Raymond K Hessel is handled by the narrator alone in the novel; in the film, Tyler takes control while the narrator witnesses the event.
- Project Mayhem's bombs are successful in exploding in the film, while they were duds in the novel.
- The narrator shoots himself to kill Tyler, rather than to make a decision on his own as in the novel.
- The film ends with the narrator and Marla watching buildings explode, while the novel ends with the narrator talking about a mental institution that he has been confined to.
- In the film the ultimate objective of Project Mayhem is never revealed. In the novel Project Mayhem was to slow down humanity's technological advancement by artifically causing another dark age. This is referred to in the film, however, in the bedroom scene after the car crash.
Reaction and themes
Fight Club was released in the United States on October 15, 1999 to mixed reviews. While some critics raved about the film, many high-profile critics denounced it. Janet Maslin of The New York Times compared it favorably to American Beauty while Roger Ebert called it "male porn." The graphic violence of the fights seemed to upset most critics, although only one person is actually killed in the film.
The film opened with $11 million, a surprise #1 movie in a close race that weekend at the box office. However, it fell very quickly in subsequent weekends, finishing with only $37 million in the U.S. It was regarded as a failure as the budget was $63 million, not including advertising which could have been another $20-30 million. Even with the $63 million later accumulated overseas, executives at 20th Century Fox still felt the movie was a severe disappointment, so much that Entertainment Chief Bill Mechanic was fired. According to Mechanic, he had personally clashed with Fox owner Rupert Murdoch over Fight Club and it cost him his job, barely a year after Fox's Titanic had become the highest-grossing film ever made.
Fight Club's salvation turned out to be the DVD market which was experiencing rapid growth at the time. The two-disc package featured four audio commentaries and hours of extra material, offering an in-depth analysis of the film. Fight Club would eventually break even and later become profitable thanks to the sales of the DVD. The magazine Entertainment_Weekly, which had originally given the film a negative grade of D, later ranked the DVD #1 on its list of "The Top 50 DVDs You Need To Own."
The film's highly critical view of consumerism and modern living echoes Naomi Klein's book No Logo and also caused discomfort among some critics. Critics like Ebert decried what they described as fascist themes throughout the film, while others have commented on anarchist, nihilist, and buddhist ideals. Both are represented in the transformation of the fight club, an anti-materialistic organization of individuality to Project Mayhem, a more organized anarchy, led solely on the authority of Tyler Durden. The amorphous nature with which these seemingly opposed philosophical systems incorporated into each other is the cause for much of the disagreement over the philosophical core of this film.
Parallels are also drawn between Tyler Durden's vision of the world after his revolution, and the views of Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber. This can be seen in one scene where Tyler talks about abseiling down the Sears Tower in clothes that will last you the rest of your life and hunting elk on abandoned freeways.
Some elements from the film have found their way into the mainstream, such as the first two rules of fight club — both of which are You do not talk about fight club — or the name "Tyler Durden" itself. The general idea of a fight club was also adapted into the German computer role-playing game Gothic 2, which also listed Palahniuk in its credits.
The movie appears to take place in Wilmington, Delaware, home to most credit card companies. Tyler's business card includes the Wilmington zip code 19808. Moreover, the cities specifically mentioned in the car-smashing scene are New Castle, Delaware City and Penns Grove, NJ, which are close to Wilmington. The apartment building in which the narrator lives has as its motto "a place to be somebody," which is also the city motto of Wilmington, Delaware.
The film makers originally intended Tyler Durden to recite working recipes for homemade explosives. They later decided against it for the interest of public safety, and fake recipes were used.
In the beginning of the film, Tyler Durden flashes on screen for a duration of one frame, perhaps a forecast to Tyler's job as film projectionist, in four different instances. These are:
- At the photocopier at work.
- In the doctor's office, when the Narrator is learning about the testicular cancer support group.
- At that group's meeting.
- As the Narrator sees Marla leaving a meeting but doesn't follow her.
These single frame flashes caused quality controllers to complain about "dirt" on the final reel. The film makers had to then reassure them that this was by design before the film was allowed to be distributed. Beyond these individual frame moments, Tyler also appears on a hotel TV screen among a group of employees wearing white jackets and bidding the viewer "welcome" (look on the right side of the screen). This sort of trickery has become a trademark of director David Fincher.
In a similar one panel trick, a single frame showing a frontal view of a naked man is included in the view of the explosions at the end of the film. This is likely an internal reference to Tyler's practice of splicing single frames of pornography into family films during his job at the movie theatre, as if he is working at the cinema in question. A common urban legend is that this is the penis of Brad Pitt, which it isn't. At least, that's what the press release says.
The film won the following awards:
- the 2000 Empire Award (UK) for Best British Actress (Helena Bonham Carter)
- the 2001 Online Film Critics Society Awards for Best DVD, Best DVD Commentary, and Best DVD Special Features
It was also nominated for the following awards:
- the 2000 Academy Award for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
- the 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team (Brad Pitt & Edward Norton)
- the 2000 Brit Award for Best Soundtrack
- the 2000 Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence for Costume Design for Film - Contemporary
- the 2000 Sierra Award from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards for Best DVD and Best Editing
- the 2000 MTV Movie Award for Best Fight (Edward Norton vs himself)
- the 2000 Golden Reel Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA for Best Sound Editing - Effects & Foley
- the 2000 Online Film Critics Society Awards for Best Actor (Edward Norton), Best Director, Best Film, Best Film Editing, and Best Screenplay, Adapted
- the 2000 Political Film Society Award for Democracy
- writing credits: Chuck Palahniuk (novel), Jim Uhls (screenplay)
- runtime: 139 minutes
- sound: DTS / Dolby EX 6.1
- aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1
- release date: October 6, 1999 (USA)
- budget: $63,000,000
- MPAA rating: R
Cast and roles include
- Edward Norton - Narrator
- Brad Pitt - Tyler Durden
- Helena Bonham Carter - Marla Singer
- Meat Loaf - Robert 'Bob' Paulson
- Zach Grenier - Richard Chesler
- Richmond Arquette - Intern
- David Andrews - Thomas
- George Maguire - Group Leader
- Eugenie Bondurant - Weeping Woman
- Christina Cabot - Group Leader
- Sydney 'Big Dawg' Colston - Speaker
- Rachel Singer - Chloe
- Christie Cronenweth - Airline Attendant
- Tim De Zarn - Inspector Bird
- Ezra Buzzington - Inspector Dent
- Dierdre Downing-Jackson - Woman
- Robert J. Stephenson - Airport Security Officer
- Charlie Dell - Doorman
- Rob Lanza - Man in Suit
- David Lee Smith - Walter
- Holt McCallany - The Mechanic
- Joel Bissonnette - Food Court Maitre'd
- Eion Bailey - Ricky
- Evan Mirand - Steph
- Robby Robinson - Next Month's Opponent
- Lou Beatty Jr. - Cop at Marla's Building
- Thom Gossom Jr. - Detective Stern
- Valerie Bickford - Cosmetics Buyer
- Jared Leto - Angel Face
- Peter Iacangelo - Lou
- The Fight Club film official web site
- A Metaphilm article comparing the characters to those in Calvin and Hobbes
- An essay on Fight Club as spiritual allegory
- When Larry & Tyler switch lines A comparison of the scene in The People vs. Larry Flynt and Fight Club, both starring Edward Norton, where dress code is almost identical.
- Tyler Durden For America Presidential Campaign
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