Only after disaster can Judge Patrick Bromley be resurrected.
Our review of Fight Club, published June 15th, 2000, is also available.
"You met me at a very strange time in my life."—Final line of dialogue in Fight Club.
With just a few months to go in 1999, David Fincher's Fight Club came along and announced itself not just as one of the best movies of the year, but the entire decade. Now, after 10 years of cult success and misreadings from both fans and detractors, Fight Club hits the HD format with a terrific new Blu-ray release.
Facts of the Case
I am the narrator of Fight Club. Call me Jack (Edward Norton, 25th Hour). I am stuck in a life that's slowly killing me: a job I hate, a slave to new Ikea furniture, and solving my sofa problems. I cannot sleep. One night, I attend a meeting for cancer survivors, and everything changes. I become hooked on group therapy for diseases I do not have. I meet a girl. Marla (Helena Bonham Carter, Terminator Salvation). She's a faker like me. I meet a boy. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). We become friends. My apartment blows up. One night, Tyler tells me to hit him as hard as I can. It feels good. We start a club we call Fight Club. There are rules to Fight Club. It gets bigger and bigger. It stops being about fighting and starts being about bringing down the whole world. People start to think I'm Tyler. We do not talk about Fight Club.
It's difficult to talk about Fight Club without venturing into spoiler territory. If you haven't seen the movie, stop reading now.
Now it's just us anarchists, the fanboys who can't get enough of David Fincher giving the middle finger to everyone and everything. We happily revel in the movie's pornography of violence and destruction, embracing the philosophies of Project Mayhem: we must lose everything to be free; the things we own end up owning us; self-improvement is masturbation; and sometimes—just sometimes—we have to destroy something beautiful. If we didn't buy the film's messages hook, line, and sinker, how could we possibly like a piece of irresponsible, sociopathic "art" like this?
In my 10 years of discussing the movie with people—it's nothing if not endlessly discussable—I've found that Fight Club is one of those films that's equally embraced and rejected, often for the same wrong reasons. Many critics dismissed it outright on the grounds I've outlined above, but we know now (just as we knew a decade ago) they just didn't get it. There is nothing accurate about the way I've described the merits of Fight Club. That's not to say that the cult of fans who've developed around the movie understand it any better. Many seem to misread it entirely, much like the members of Fight Club themselves. The movie is about the ways in which buying into an ideology—any ideology—is wrong, when it substitutes for figuring things out for yourself. It's about the dangers of blindly following anyone or anything. Just because you've decided to reject political correctness or consumer culture (anything that, according to the film, weakens us both as men and as humans) doesn't mean you're any better off buying into something as simplistic and stupid as a fight club, or as dangerous and stupid as a Project Mayhem. The end result is still the same: You are not You. You're just another product.
But let's say you reject all of Fight Club's blood-soaked psychobabble (Congratulations! You're well on your way to becoming your own person!) and find its satire of consumerism and contemporary masculinity heavy-handed or confused. You can still appreciate the movie on a purely visceral level, and Fight Club is nothing if not one of the most visceral films of the last 20 years—in the most carefully crafted way. Fincher is an expert at choreographing anarachy. Never have I seen a film so technically dazzling and precise that simultaneously threatens to shake loose from the projector. It's a shame he demonstrates none of this life and vitality in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (though at least with Zodiac, he's still got one of the best films of the 2000s all sewn up), and none of the humor, either. What often gets overlooked about Fight Club is just how funny it is. If I've got any issue with the movie, it's with the third act. The fact is, I'm still not sure if the "twist" in Palahniuk's book or Fincher's movie really improves the story from a thematic perspective. It's an issue I've never quite been able to shake. The good news is when The Pixies cue up, followed by one of the best closing lines/shots in recent memory, all is right with the world again. Sort of.
Now, the even better news: the Blu-ray release of Fight Club is awesome, improving on the two-disc collector's edition DVD that was, until recently, one of the favorites of my collection both for its technical attributes and its vast collection of bonus material. The 1080p hi-def transfer is a thing of beauty, delivering the film's powerful visuals in stunning detail and clarity. The movie is washed-out by design and the transfer is faithful to source material, while still showcasing deep black levels and incredible skin textures, plus the occasional well-place touch of color (Brad Pitt's red leather jacket springs to mind). As good as the video transfer is, the DTS-HD Master Audio track is even better—one of the best I've heard. It's not just that the dialogue is clear and the sound effects room-shattering when need be; it's that it all seems perfectly timed and placed. All of the choices are very deliberate, and I can't think of many more audio tracks that showed this much attention to detail. The sound design has always been one of Fight Club's strongest suits (there's a reason it gets its own featurette on this Blu-ray), and this disc does it perfect justice.
All of the extras have been ported over from the two-disc DVD, plus a few new interesting additions. One new (and sort of cool) piece is an interactive featurette on the film's excellent sound design called "A Hit in the Ear," which allows the viewer to remix the audio from four different scenes in the film. It wears out its welcome fairly quickly and isn't the sort of thing you'll return to over and over, but it does give you a better appreciation of Fight Club's densely textured sonic landscape. Another cool new feature is called "I Am Jack's Search Index." It allows you to basically scan the contents of the entire disc by subject and jump to any point that relates to that topic. It also breaks down each of the four commentary tracks into chapters by topic and allows you to see what's being discussed on one track while listening to another (for example, if you're listening to the solo Fincher track, you could find out what's being talked about on the Fincher/Norton/Pitt track). It's almost an information overload, breaking Fight Club down into its smallest components, but it's also a neat look into the possibilities of Blu-ray technology. I can't help but wonder if we won't see this feature popping up on other releases in the future.
The only other new addition is a short piece covering Fight Club's entrance into Spike TV's "Guy Movie Hall of Fame." It's mostly fluff, but I was interested in the way that honorees Fincher, Norton, and Pitt came up with their speech on the fly and how open they are about the ridiculousness of it all. Plus, it's yet another reminder that Mel Gibson (who presents the award) has become a total fruit loop.
The remainder of the bonus features are the same ones found on the special edition DVD: you'll get a publicity gallery (including some very amusing non-sequiter spots about the sterility of urine), seven deleted or alternate scenes, an art gallery, a boatload of behind-the-scenes featurettes covering nearly every aspect of production and, best of all, four different commentary tracks. My favorite of the four is the track with Fincher, Norton, and Pitt, which is packed with production info, analysis and humor. Fincher gives most of the nuts and bolts detail, while Norton is the chattiest of the bunch and at times threatens to overpower the whole thing. He's a little pretentious at times, but has a lot of terrific insight into the film (he aptly compares it to The Graduate). Pitt mostly goofs off and gets all the good laughs. It's a great, great track, and one of the few commentaries I find myself coming back to over and over. Not many commentaries have this kind of replay value.
While the addition of only a few special features may not convince owners of the two-disc special edition of Fight Club to make an HD upgrade, the A/V aspects ought to. It's a great-looking, great-sounding version of a great movie.
I am Jack's masterpiece.
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