Retroplex Cinema: Fight Club (1999)

Retroplex Cinema arrives with a film that we aren't technically suppose to talk about but it hit theaters 15 years ago and still stands strong today as an incredible modern classic.  That film is of course, Fight Club, which arrived in theaters on October 15, 1999.  Let's take a look back at a little mischief, mayhem, and soap!
Fight Club (1999) was directed by David Fincher and is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by author Chuck. Palahnuik. Arriving in theaters 15 years ago, the film was met with moderate critical success but not so much at the box office.  However, since then it has found it's way to cult success from home video and word of mouth from young people who embraced the film's elements of anti-commercialism, anti-establishment, and more.  The extremely violent film was meant to be a metaphor for the conflict between a generation of young people and the value system of advertising. The director copied the homoerotic overtones from Palahniuk's novel to make audiences uncomfortable and keep them from anticipating the twist ending.  It has often been called the current generations version of The Graduate and 15 years later, still has a strong following as a new generation is discovering the film..
 What is Fight Club about for the readers who haven't seen it?  Well for one the first rule of fight club is you do not talk about Fight Club.  Rule #2?  You do not talk about Fight Club.  But okay, okay we will talk about it.  The description on is this: An insomniac office worker looking for a way to change his life crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more...  Really if you say anymore than that then you do the film a disservice and would be giving to much away.  It's a film of a certain magnitude that has to be viewed with an open eye and ear, and experience it for one's self.  Fight Club in some ways was the quintessential film to look back on the 1990's but also says so much as we move forward in today's world.  Fight Club is without a doubt, one of the greatest film's of modern times.

Production Notes
     Now that we have already broken rule #1 and #2 and talked about Fight Club, we will move on.  Oh and from this point on we will assume you have seen the film because spoilers may follow.  So now can we continue?  Thank you.
     When director David Fincher first delivered the film to 20th Century Fox they didn't know how to market it. Fincher clashed with the studio on this and hired his own agency to market the film so essentially there were two campaigns running.  One by 20th Century Fox selling it as a "fight" movie and Fincher's agency selling it as the dark satire he intended for the film to be.  This wasn't the only disagreement Fincher would have with the studio.  He  wanted a very elaborate special effect filled opening title sequence and the studio balked at the $800,000 price tag for it.  The segment would feature an electronic mapping of "the narrator's" brain so to speak.  Ultimately he got what he wanted and the opening title sequence is a remarkable and memorable sequence.
     When it came to casting, Russel Crowe was sought after for the role of Tyler Durden, the role that Brad Pitt would eventually take over.  All though Crowe was wanted, the studio felt in the end Pitt was a better choice after seeing him in Meet Joe Black.  For the role of the "narrator" the studio wanted a more marquee name such as Matt Damon or even Sean Penn.  Fincher wanted Edward Norton for the role and in January 1998 it was announced that Pitt and Norton were cast in the film.  The female lead of Marla Singer was given to actress Helena Bonham Carter after Fincher's first choice of Janeane Garofalo declined the film over creative differences.  The movie even has an appearance from a young Jared Leto years before he was winning an Oscar. After much intense training by the actors so that the fights could look as real as possible, Fight Club went into production and into theaters in October 1999. 

Visual Style Of The Film
     Fight Club was given a unique visual style from cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth.  Fincher had worked with Cronenweth on Alien 3 and had explored visual styles with his previous films Seven and The Game.  They wanted the people of the world to appear sort of shiny and the scenes with The Narrator and Tyler Durden to look more bland and realistic.  Fincher described the look as "more hyper-real in a torn-down, deconstructed sense - a visual metaphor of what the narrator is heading into". The filmmakers also used heavily desaturated colors in the costuming, makeup, and art to give the world that hyper realistic look.  The scenes with Tyler Durden were particularly planned carefully.  Scenes with Durden were staged to conceal that the character was a mental projection of the unnamed narrator. He was never filmed in two shots with a group of people, nor was he shown in any over the shoulder shot in scenes where Tyler gives the narrator specific ideas to manipulate him. In early scenes in the film, before the narrator meets Tyler, the filmmakers inserted Tyler in single frames for subliminal effect.  It's a pretty cool idea that many people did not notice on their first viewing.  Tyler appears in the background and out of focus, like a "little devil on the shoulder" Fincher explained.  Fincher has gone on to explain the subliminal frames as such "Our hero is creating Tyler Durden in his own mind, so at this point he exists only on the periphery of the narrator's consciousness." Along with the subliminal visuals of Tyler Durden, Fincher also claims that there is a Starbucks coffee cup in every scene!

Fight Club remains a popular film with young people and amongst the now 30 to 40 somethings that first embraced it.   Critically the film was misunderstood by many but also had many that embraced it.  It stands at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics but fans have it at 96% showing that the general public has admired the film.  Pop culture has embraced the film as well with quotes, nods, and references sprinkled throughout in other films, books, and other media.  The film also led young men to create their own "fight" clubs in various cities across the world which was not what the film ever attended.  This resulted in several law enforcement arrests in many of these places as young viewers of the film were taking the film perhaps a little to literally.
     Fight Club has also spawned quite a bit of merchandise over the year's which is ironic considering the film's message about "the things you own end up owning you".  From t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, and more.  Naturally a fighting video game was released for the original XBox and Playstation 2 but it was not well received and is considered one of the worst video games ever made.  Oh and naturally Fight Club soap bars were made.
     In early 2015 a sequel to Fight Club will be released in comic book form titled Fight Club 2.  It is being released by Dark Horse Comics and is a sequel to the original novel not the movie.  Fight Club's legacy will continue to live on as more people discover the film and future generations as well.
     Check out some other Fight Club item's below as well as the film's original trailer and you can order the Blu-Ray if you do not already own it. Please listen to the next episode of Rebel Radio as well where we will talk about Fight Club and it's legacy.  Oh wait.....the first rule of fight club is, you do not talk about fight club.....too late we suppose.

Order Fight Club on Blu-Ray here!

Fight Club 2 Comic Cover
 Promotional Poster
Disclaimer At Film's Beginning 
Original DVD Special Edition