Release Date: November 17, 2009
Own it on Blu-ray
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Chuck Palahniuk (novel), Jim Uhls (screenplay)
Stars: Ed Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meatloaf
MPAA Rating: R
I wish that in good conscience I could recommend that you rush out and buy the Fight Club: 10th Anniversary Edition, which was released today on Blu-ray, but I can’t.
You don’t need to own this movie. It’s just another superfluous possession that advertising agencies have convinced you that you need in order to take your hard-earned money. Buying this film won’t make your dead-end job seem any less miserable and it won’t give any meaning to your dreary life. The joy it will provide you will ultimately be fleeting. It won’t make you feel complete. Worst of all, you won’t own it; it will end up owning you.
But if you do end up giving in to our consumer culture and purchasing the new release of this film, I can promise you one thing – you will be solidly entertained.
Fight Club is the story of an unnamed protagonist (Ed Norton, whose character is officially listed as “The Narrator”), who feels trapped in a meaningless existence. His life is empty and he’s in a job that he hates, going nowhere. At the start of the film, he is also suffering from insomnia. In an attempt to gain some perspective, The Narrator begins going to support groups for people with life-threatening diseases. Along the way, he meets Robert Paulson (Meatloaf), an ex-bodybuilder whose steroid use has given him both testicular cancer and a gigantic pair of breasts. He also meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), an unstable woman who is also faking her way through the support groups because, as she puts it, they are “cheaper than a movie, and there’s free coffee.”
However, the most influential character our protagonist comes across is Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a free-spirited soap maker who randomly gets seated next to him on a flight. Tyler befriends him and realigns his outlook on life, over time convincing him to let go of his possessions and his old life. The two start an underground fight club together, where they get together with other disenfranchised 30-something males in the basement of a bar and brutally combat each other in order to vent their frustrations and feel alive again.
At first, it seems like our protagonist has finally got his life in order, but problems soon begin to arise. Once Tyler and Marla meet, a strange love triangle develops between the two of them and The Narrator. Then, Tyler begins using their fight club as a platform for his anarchist agenda, giving assignments to its members aimed at disrupting the status quo.
It’s a complex and layered film filled with social commentary on masculinity and consumerism. The film is based on a book by Chuck Palahniuk, who is one of the most poetic and talented fiction writers out there today, but it is actually one of the rare instances where the film is actually better than the novel. Director David Fincher and screenwriter Jim Uhls depart from the book quite a bit, while still keeping the theme and much of Palahniuk’s rich prose intact (including great lines like “On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero” and “It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything”).
Of course, when the film was released, it was universally panned by critics and was a box office failure. Critics wrote off Fight Club as nothing more than an empty film glorifying violence, completely missing the point.
It was only after the DVD release that people began to appreciate the movie. People who had either passed on it because of the harsh reviews or the ineffective marketing campaign finally gave the movie a chance and loved it. Over time, it gained cult status and lines like “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club” became part of the public consciousness.
It makes sense that it took a while for the film to find its audience. For one thing, if you aren’t a disenfranchised male in your 20s or 30s, the story may not speak to you at all. Also, it’s an unconventional film that is shot and presented in a manner that moviegoers may be unaccustomed to. It frequently breaks the fourth wall and has a surreal quality to it. But most of all, it’s a film that requires multiple viewings to truly appreciate all of its subtle nuances and to really understand what is going on underneath the surface.
Luckily, this new Blu-ray release makes it easier than ever to pick up on those nuances. While the film still looks a bit grainy in high-def, the picture is brighter and clearer than ever. Things like the quick subliminal flashes of Tyler Durden early in the film and the “No Incoming Calls Allowed” sign on the payphone The Narrator uses to call Tyler after his apartment is destroyed, which foreshadow a huge plot development at the end of the film, are easier to detect. There are also little visual jokes that are easier to see now, like Marla overfilling a cup of coffee while being berated by the protagonist or Tyler putting his hands out to catch the fat spilling out of the liposuction bag that gets caught on the barbed wire fence.
The other big improvement is the audio quality. Both the soundtrack by The Dust Brothers and the rich layers of sound created by sound director Ren Klyce (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film) really shine on this new release. You really appreciate things like the crack of the punches and all of the rich background sounds that fill the basement where the fights take place.
There is even an all-new bonus feature on this release entitled “A Hit in the Ear,” which spotlights Klyce and allows you to remix the sound on four different scenes. Even if you aren’t interested in playing with the sound levels, I highly recommend watching the intro that Klyce recorded, which includes some interesting tidbits – like the fact that they stuffed chicken carcasses with walnuts and pounded them down in the basement of George Lucas’ sound recording facility in order to get the punching sound they were looking for.
There are two other Blu-ray exclusive bonus features as well, “Flogging Fight Club” and “Insomniac Mode.” “Flogging Fight Club” is a behind-the-scenes look at Fincher, Norton and Pitt’s acceptance of the “Guy Movie Hall of Fame” award at Spike’s Guy’s Choice Awards. (The best part is watching Pitt say, “Thanks, sugartits,” to award presenter Mel Gibson.) “Insomniac Mode” is a search index that allows you to jump to different bonus features and scenes using key words like “Bathing Suit Area,” “Exploding Stewardess” and “Pain-free Free Range Potluck.”
In addition to these new features, there is a ton of bonus content that was released on the DVD version of the film, including behind-the-scenes vignettes, interviews, deleted scenes and four different commentary tracks.
There is a lot to love about this new release. It’s definitely worth picking up if you don’t own Fight Club already, but it’s hard to say if it’s worth upgrading if you already own the DVD. The picture and sound are definitely improved and the new featurettes are enjoyable, but that may not be enough to convince you to make the switch. However, Amazon.com is currently offering this new Blu-ray version for $15.99, so that may sweeten the pot for you if you are on the fence.
However, be warned –you won’t just enjoy this film; it will end up owning you.
Written by Joel Murphy. Fight Club is available today on Blu-ray.