The first rule of reviewing "Fight Club" is: do not give away the secrets of "Fight Club". Do not ruin the joy of watching this fantastic movie for others. David Fincher has always been a director whose work I've been interested in. "Seven" was a wild film with fantastic performances; "The Game" had a good story and look, but occasionally went on a little too long in the middle. Both films introduced us to a dark, hallucinatory world, but stepped around the outside of these dark lands.
With "Fight Club", Fincher has taken us and thrown us head first into the darkness. "Fight Club" is a train running off the tracks. Director Fincher has been paired up with the perfect story and the perfect actors. Edward Norton stars as the narrator, a wash-out at a major company who has problems with insomnia to the point where he looks as if he's about to fall apart completely. He orders products to fufill his life, looking for things like what furniture is really "him". He begins to join local "12-step meetings" to make himself feel better while sitting around people who are sick or at the end of their lives.
And then, Tyler Durden. Played by Brad Pitt, soap salesman Durden comes into the narrators life and makes an enormous impact. The two begin to have little fights that turn into bigger fights when the two form a bigger society; a "Fight Club". At first things seem to be going according to plan, but once the club aims for bigger goals, things begin to spin out of control.
Fincher does here what he needed to do with "The Game"; every line in "Fight Club"(and there are so many great lines in this film that you can hardly catch them all in one viewing) in put out there with such intensity and energy that even the lengthy stretches of conversation make for fascinating viewing. There are so many little moments even that can't be talked about, as they all add up and flow together to the surreal world that is "Fight Club".
"Fight Club" is a wild, hyper film that I found extremely thought provoking and well-acted. Pitt and Norton are quite good, and Fincher has finally paired his style with an impressively well-written story. I hope that I haven't ruined more detailed plot elements because not only do I think that "Fight Club" is a film that can't be ruined for the first viewing, I think that it's a film that can stand up to further viewings, as well.
VIDEO: 20th Century Fox has been improving greatly with the image quality on their discs, and they present "Fight Club" to perfection. The film has a wildly dark look to it, and even in the darkest scenes, the image remains sharp and offers strong detail. Colors are intentionally subdued, but look accurate to the intention of the tone and atmosphere director Fincher was trying to obtain. Colors show no signs of bleeding or any other problems, either. Flesh tones look natural, as well. Black level is consistently solid.
Flaws are extremely minor and hardly worth noting; there's a few minor instances of grain, but that's about all there is to it. No pixelation, no shimmering and the print used is just about 100% perfect, with no signs of scratches or flaws. This is the kind of great work that Fox is capable of; the image captures every gorgeously gloomy frame perfectly. The film is presented in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and it looks fantastic.
SOUND: I found the audio for "Fight Club" to be jaw-droppingly good; in fact, I have to say that I enjoyed the audio for this film so much that I have to count it among the best soundtracks in recent memory. No, it is not "Saving Private Ryan" or "Armageddon", but the creativity and innovation that went into the making of this sound mix shows the effort in almost every scene. There are so many subtle sound noises that distinguish the environments that the viewer is placed in, we're pulled almost completely into this universe.
Surround use is extremely agressive; the sense of space and dimension involved with the sound for "Fight Club" is simply marvelous. In some of the interior scenes when characters are talking, the echo of their voices carries throughout the room to sheer perfection. The score by the Dust Brothers also sounds excellent, with the haunting and dynamic score filling the room with impressive impact. Every detail, both loud and subtle, are captured with stunning clarity. This is a wonderful, wonderful soundtrack that is amazing work from sound designer Richard John Hymns("Saving Private Ryan", "The Game", "Jumanji") and his crew.
MENUS:: The menus are flashy without being overly agressive, with the main menu being a picture of the "Fight Club" soap image, with clips and other animation occasionally coming into the screen while the score plays in the background. The scene selection menu for the movie plays clips from each scene in the menu, and, as I'll get to in the extras portion of the review, all of the menus for the extras sections are extremely user-friendly and easily navigated.
EXTRAS:Ok, now here's where things really get impressive...
Commentary One: This is a commentary from director David Fincher, actor Brad Pitt, actor Ed Norton and also, Helena Bonham Carter, although Carter sounds as if she was edited into the track, while Pitt, Norton and Fincher do discuss things back and forth together. I found this to be one of the best commentaries that I've heard this year, being alternately an intelligent discussion of the film and film in general, and an talk that has quite a few entertaining moments as the three joke around about working together(during one rather dark sequence, Norton jokes to the director, "now admit it, we're a little underlit here, Fincher").
Since Bonham Carter was recorded separately, she does go down her own roads discussing the film, talking about what it was like to work with the other actors and also, sharing her thoughts on the themes of "Fight Club". The other three participants do much of the same, but expand further upon the production. Pitt and Norton do a lot of the talking, and Fincher frequently adds in additional facts. The majority of this track also isn't that technical, although there is a joke or two about how dark the film looks. Mainly, it's all about stories from the set and themes from the film analyzed (and occasionally, they debate lightly the film's concepts).
It's an entertaining time listening to the three talk with one another about the making of the movie, and it's obvious that they've all become friends while making the movie. It's a relaxed discussion that still really keeps organized and informative.
Commentary Two: This is a commentary from only director David Fincher. While Fincher let Norton and Pitt do the majority of the talking on the first track, he is the sole speaker on this track, and talks energetically about the film. It focuses a little more on the technical and production aspects rather than the themes that were visited in the first commentary that I talked about. There is certainly still some chatting about the story in this discussion as well, though.
The director goes through a screen-specific commentary for the entire film, touching on many different subjects and going into an impressive amount of detail about how many of the scenes were brought to the screen. He has very specific concepts about the directorial process and shares many of his ideas on how to approach things such as casting and meeting with actors to the screening process for the film.
There are a handful of brief moments of silence during the commentary, but for the most part, Fincher talks consistantly throughout the film. I really enjoyed listening to his contributions to the commentary with Pitt and Norton and their discussion, but I think that he holds things together very well during this solo commentary and has more than enough information to carry viewers through the making of "Fight Club".
Commentary Three: This third commentary on the DVD contains a discussion from "Fight Club" novel writer Chuck Palahniuk and screenwriter Jim Uhuls. As one might expect from a commentary like this one, this discussion mainly focuses on the differences between the screenplay and the novel.
I really shouldn't short this discussion and say it's simply a discussion of the writing. Although that aspect offers the most interesting comments and information, the two also provide a lot of additional viewpoints on how the final product of the film turned out. They also talk a little bit about the history of the production, talking about how the studio became interested in making a film out of the novel.
The two have a lot of fun chatting about the film, occasionally offering a few funny stories about the film and stories about behind-the-scenes events. There are some points of silence where the two aren't talking, but when they do chat about the movie, they provide quite a bit of insight and humor. The two provide a fascinating back and forth discussion about the film's themes and what it took to translate the film to the screen.
Commentary Four: This is a commentary from Director of Photography Jeff Cronenweth,production designer Alex McDowell, FX supervisor Kevin Haug,costume designer Michael Kaplan and digital animator Doc Bailey. This commentary occasionally is a little tough to follow due to the amount of people included, but the narrator keeps things organized, introducing the people who are speaking.
Each of the contributors provide their own viewpoint from the task that they had to do on the film. Cronenweth is especially interesting when talking about the film's cinematography, chatting about the lighting and camera work that had to be done to give the film its visual look. Kevin Haug provides an especially informative discussion as well, talking about the film's visual effects scenes and how they were accomplished.
All of the contributors offer their view on the job that they did, but they also talk about stories from the set and occasionally, general viewpoints on the story. It's a final wrap-up of the process of "Fight Club". These 4 commentaries go over almost every detail of the production, from the story and themes, to the direction, to the production and special effects and back again. There are some pauses here and there throughout all of the commentaries but the Fincher/Norton/Pitt commentary; even so, they do provide a wealth of information and just about everything you could ever want to know about this film.
THX Tests: There are two tests included (audio&video) that serve to help the viewer ensure proper presentation. This is included on the first disc.
TV Spots: There are seventeen TV spots included on the second disc, in the catagories of "USA", "International" and "Spanish". Unlike a lot of discs recently where TV ads simply play out, here you can select them one by one and watch whichever one you want.
Trailers: Included are the teaser trailer, full trailer and an additional trailer, "The 8 Rules Of Fight Club" that was not used in the marketing campaign, but was finished for inclusion on this DVD.
PSAs: "Public Service Announcements" from Jack and Tyler.
Internet Spots: 5 Internet teaser trailers promoting the film.
Promotional Gallery: This section offers a photo gallery of many of the promotional materials used in the marketing campaign, from posters and lobby cards to the press kit and stills from the movie.
Edward Norton Interview: This is a transscript of an interview Norton did about the film when he returned to Yale, where he graduated from college.
Deleted Scenes: There are 7 deleted scenes, and I enjoyed how this section is layed out. When you select a scene in the menu, text pops up to explain what this sequence is about and why it was cut.
The featurettes: There are quite a few featurettes that are dedicated to various scenes or aspects of the production. What's so impressive about these featurettes is that many of them offer more than one audio track(commentary) about what's on-screen.
The commentators for these featurettes are:
Kevin Haug: Visual Effects Supervisor
Cliff Wenger: Special Effects Coordinator
Kevin Mack: Visual FX Supervisor for Digital Domain
Doc Bailey: Digital Animation Supervisor
These are the featurettes for the "visual effects" featurettes: "Main Title"(commentary by Kevin Haug and additional commentary by Kevin Mack; includes "map" - concept art) ; "Furni Catalog"(commentary by Kevin Haug; includes storyboards) ; "Ice Cave/Power Animal"(principal photography commentary by Kevin Haug; storyboards included) ; "Photogrammetry"(commentary by Kevin Haug, includes storyboards) ; "Mid-Air Collision"(previsualization commentary by Kevin Haug - additional previsualization commentary by Kevin Mack) ; "Sex Sequence"(commentary by Kevin Haug, includes storyboards) ; "Car Crash"(audio 1 is principal photography; 2 is commentary by Cliff Wenger; includes storyboards) ; "Gun Shot"(commentary by Kevin Haug) ; "Collapse"(Commentary by Doc Bailey and Kevin Haug).
The production featurettes become a little more complicated, offering both alternate audio and multiple angles to see different versions of a sequence. The first sequence is "Alternate Main Titles"(offered: angles: 1, textless - 2, incompleted preview version - 3, alternate font style 1 - 4, alternate font style 2)(audio: main title theme, alternate main title theme).
The next featurette is "Airport", which includes 2 angles; 1 - location scout; 2 - principal photography. 3 audio tracks are included here; 1- location scout, 2- principal photography and 3- commentary by David Fincher. "Jack's Condo" featurette is set up in really the same fashion, with location scout angle/audio, principal photography angle/audio and commentary by director Fincher.
The "Paper Street House" featurette includes 2 angles and 2 audio tracks; angles are: pre-production(designing&building the house) and principal photography; audio tracks are "location scout" and "principal photography").
"Projection Booth" featurette includes "location scout" and "principal photography" angles/audio. The final production featurette is "Corporate Art Ball", which includes 2 angles and 2 audio tracks; the angles are "location scout/principal photography" and "pre-visualization/raw footage". Audio tracks are "location scout/principal photography" and the second one is "commentary by Cliff Wenger and Kevin Haug".
I really enjoyed how Fox set-up and organized the production featurettes, where the viewer first selects which angle they want to view, and then selects what audio. The nice thing beyond that is, if you want to switch audio or angle during the presentation, you can with your remote.
On Location: This is the final featurette included on the DVD, joining the cast and crew on the set of the movie, watching the production at work. This is different from the usual featurette that we're used to seeing in the way that it really doesn't involve interviews - this is a documentary that shows a lot on-set footage, and it's cool to sort of be there and watch and come to our conclusions without someone explaining everything; it's a very intimate look at the process and I think that I'd rather have featurettes be like this, just being in the middle of the chaos of filmmaking.
Cast&Crew Bios: Bios for just about everyone involved with the movie.
Art Gallery: This section includes 6 separate areas: "Storyboards", "Visual Effects Stills", "Paper Street House", "Costumes and Makeup", "Pre-Production Paintings" and "Brain-Ride Map".
Final Thoughts: And now, we arrive at the end of our journey through "Fight Club"(and what a long, strange trip it's been...). 20th Century Fox was, for a long time, not highly regarded in the world of DVD, choosing to put out some fairly bare editions of films like "True Lies" and other highly regarded films. They hit a point though, where there was definitely something happening; a change over. Recently, they have taken steps to improve that have been much appreciated, and even making a few special editions along the way.
"Fight Club" is an enormous effort, that's to be sure. With this and Fox's work on the 2 DVD set of "The Abyss"(as well as the possible 2 DVD set of the upcoming "Anna and the King"), they show serious signs of becoming great producers in the DVD universe. "Fight Club" especially shows a studio that doesn't throw anything on the disc - the featurettes are strong, informative, and well done. ... And the commentary tracks - it's a pretty remarkable job that they've done with all 4 of these, gathering all of these people who were influential in some way to the film and offering their thoughts and viewpoint. Sure, there are people who I would have liked to have heard (such as the team who did the unbelievably good sound design), but I think the people who are included certainly share a wealth of information.
Video quality is certainly very good, and audio, as I mentioned before, is excellent. I think Fox has really put out the special edition to beat with "Fight Club"'s 2 DVD edition. Amazing work from the studio and the producers of this DVD have done a magnificent job.
In closing, I hope you've enjoyed this review of "Fight Club" and I hope I followed the rule of not giving away too much information about the movie (and I also hope I gave a good idea of what the DVD includes). I really enjoyed this film, and highly recommend it. Yes, it's not for everyone, but I think it's a very well-written, well-acted work that certainly deserves a look. The $34.98 retail price(less at many online stores) is definitely well-worth it for Fox's 2 DVD set.