It's hard to believe that it's been a decade since Fight Club came to theaters. The polarizing film has come to mean different things to different people, and mainly to the scores of men who've seen it, it's been a call to arms to reclaim masculinity that had been incrementally lost through a barrage of quiche dinners and comments like, "whatever you want, honey.". Fight Club encouraged males to get back to the natural, primal roots of their nature. To paraphrase a quote from the film, society's promises of euphoria of fortune and pleasures weren't delivering to the men listening to them, and without an event to define them, they could be considered forgotten when it comes to a defining moment in their lives. So why not have some sort of call to arms?
That's what Fight Club hoped to accomplish. Take the narrator (Edward Norton, Pride and Glory), who works for an insurance company, but has trouble sleeping and feels like he lacks any sort of life or vitality. He goes to support group meetings for illnesses he does not have in order to feel some sort of emotional connection, or even a perverse superiority. On a business trip, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds), who makes and sells soap. Through a circumstance where Norton's apartment is blown up, he takes Tyler up on his offer of a sharing a home, and it's there that Tyler's belief system and way of living fascinates him, to the point where they both decide to shake things up.
David Fincher (Zodiac) did an excellent job of adapting the Chuck Palahniuk novel, while Jim Uhuls wrote the screenplay. Fincher uses his adept eye for visuals and combines it with outstanding visual effects work from Digital Domain to create images that fit with the cadence and style of the novel. When we scan Norton's apartment for instance, everything has a product number and price straight from a faux-Ikea catalog. Everything's material and costs something, and Tyler would say that none of it is necessary.
That's only part of a manifesto (or the Gospel according to Durden, if you will) that outlines Tyler's plans for evening up the playing field of life. His plans start with a simple fight club, but they evolve into civil disobedience, followed shortly by urban destruction and terrorism. Is Fight Club the latter-day vehicle of terrorism recruitment for the middle-class white male? I wouldn't dare equate it to that, but among many people who are growing up detached, disaffected and disenfranchised, the message that Tyler Durden delivers strikes several emotional cords.
As Tyler, Pitt delivers what is arguably his most intriguing career performance to date. He'd been in another Fincher film (Se7en) and liked working with him, and a character like Tyler gives Pitt a chance to both show off the raw, beef-cake side to his appearance, but also gets sweaty, bloody and dirty while extolling the virtues of broken bones and missing teeth. It remains a memorable character a decade later for these reasons and many more. Norton portrays the perfect man getting used to these rougher circumstances, while in a supporting role, Marla (Helena Bonham Carter, Big Fish) is great; she's quietly subversive and rebellious, qualities that are embodied by Marla in the book.
While Fight Club is infinitely quotable, not to mention inspiration for internet forum names across the world, the fact remains that the film is as viable today as when it was released, with a message that still appeals to those seeing it for the first time. Fincher does great justice to the book, to the point where it could be the most visual interpretation of a book that I've seen. Pitt and Norton still presumably encounter people who can recite lines back to them, which is ironic in a way, since you're not supposed to talk about it, yes?
The Blu-ray Disc:
Fox presents Fight Club in all its 2.40:1 1080p high-definition glory with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Fincher's films have always looked outstanding, and this follows in those footsteps. Image detail looks amazing (I noticed facial detail, especially during a scene where Norton was being stitched up in the emergency room), skin tones are accurate, and blacks are deep and consistent throughout the film. It's hard to really say that this is a "reference-quality" disc because Fincher uses so many effects in and on the film to jar you, but they are replicated to excellent detail, and it's a noticeable improvement over an already outstanding standard-def edition.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track rocks the sonic crap out of your home theater setup. It then picks it up, dusts it off, and beats it up some more. The Dust Brothers' "Stealing Fat" song pulsates through the opening credits, almost startling with its power and activity across all channels. The mid-air collision sequence crashes through all speakers with clarity and effectiveness; going into the bar for the night's fights with Tom Waits' "Goin' Out West" in the background, action flows with the camera, panning from right to left and then front to back. Norton's narration is excellent in the center channel and requires no user adjustment whatsoever. This is a great track and worth an upgrading from the standard-definition on its own.
Fight Club and its extras are on one BD-50. The brown cardboard slipcase packaging that looked like a box that the standard-definition discs came in has been replaced with a grey cardboard slipcase for the Blu-ray, which looks like concrete and has Pitt, Norton and Bonham spray-painted on it. When you play the disc, you're treated to a surprise that Fincher has included on the main menu. Rather than spoil it for everybody, I'll say that it was done with the cooperation from Fincher and others, that thought was put into it, and it's both funny and nicely executed.
Most if not all of the extras from that set are here, starting with all four commentaries. The one with Fincher, Norton and Pitt (with Bonham edited in) has always been a guilty pleasure listen for me, and it's worth listening to even if you're not a fan of the film. Pitt points out some fun things that happen in the film while Norton is a little more serious when talking about his thoughts on what the story means. He throws in some jokes and funny stories, too, and they both pick their spots in busting Fincher's balls ("This scene looks a little dark, doesn't it David?"). It's great to listen to even now, and all parties are proud of the film. Fincher does a second commentary by himself that focuses more on the production and the challenges he had in completing the film. He's active throughout the track and there are very few lulls.
The third track is with Palahniuk and Uhuls; the former discusses his thoughts on the film compared to his book, while Uhuls covers how he approached adapting the book. It's pretty casual in tone and focuses more on the story than anything else, but it does include quite a bit of information. The fourth track, with director of photography Jeff Cronenweth, production designer Alex McDowell, FX supervisor Kevin Haug, costume designer Michael Kaplan and digital animator Doc Bailey, is more technical in nature. The crewmembers discuss their intent in working with Fincher and on the film, along with what challenges they faced. Definitely the driest track among the bunch, but worth listening to for die-hard fans.
Moving on, the Blu-ray extras start with "I am Jack's Search Index," which is a searchable guide of people, topics and discussions. Simply enter a keyword or scroll through a varied list, if you so please. "A Hit in the Ear" focuses on the work that sound designer Ren Klyce did for the film, what his role was in the production and his thoughts on working with Fincher for more than a quarter century. Afterward, you can mix audio from various scenes using production audio and effects, and it makes a nice little interactive audio toy. "Flogging Fight Club" (9:58) has Fincher, Norton and Pitt at the Spike TV awards receiving something called the "Guy Movie Hall of Fame" induction from Mel Gibson. It's funny to watch them work out an acceptance speech before the show, and it's a neat segment.
The standard-definition extras are all next, including the behind-the-scenes section that includes commentary on visual effects, location material and other aspects of the production by Haug, Bailey, effects coordinator Cliff Wenger and visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack. Some of the material includes multiple angles to choose from and enjoy, though sadly these (and the rest of the extras) lack a "Play All" function. Next up are seven deleted and alternate scenes (17:41), which include Bonham's famous post-coital line to Tyler. The "Art" for the film follows, including stills for the visual effects (1:25), costumes and makeup (1:50) and fictitious Paper Street house (3:05). Some pre-production artwork (4:10) and mapping of the opening credit sequence (2:50) is next. Oh yeah, the storyboards for the film are here. too. All of them. The "Publicity" section includes promotional stills galleries and a text interview with Norton, along with three trailers, 17 TV spots, including a couple in Spanish(!) and five internet spots for the film. Two phony (and hilarious) PSA's are next, along with a video for the Dust Brothers' "This is Your Life" (3:32).
When Fight Club came out on DVD, it was one of the essential titles to have in your video library. It's been overshadowed to some degree by titles since, but on Blu-ray, there are notable improvements in sound and picture, and it retains the extras and adds a couple. If you have the two-disc, upgrade away, and if you've never seen Fight Club, this is a great case for a blind-buy.