Fight Club

Fight Club (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
Extras: 4 Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Outtakes and Deleted Scenes, Trailers and TV Spots, Photo Galleries and much more...

A lot of controversy has surrounded the release of "Fight Club" both as a novel and the subsequent film by David Fincher. While the reason for the controversy can be easily spotted in the works, I found it generally less problematic after seeing the film than I thought it would be before I had seen it. Maybe part of the controversy is that many people just haven’t seen the film, really, and base their decision upon what they think it is – and believe me, most likely it won’t be what you think it is at all.

It all starts when Jack (Edward Norton) becomes so frustrated with his life that he just can’t take it any longer. For the entirety of his life, the media have painted a glorious image of wealth for everyone, made everyone believe they would be rich and famous eventually, while in fact they weren’t. Flooding society with more useless products, making them slaves to their own material desires and luring them with seemingly endless money reserves through their credit cards, Jack realizes that it is all just a travesty. Without ideals and goals, our society has degraded to a mindless, degenerated culture where the biggest excitement people can achieve is buying the latest fluff from Ikea catalogues.

Jack breaks under the realization and tries to find new thrills, away from the material world. He visits support groups for cancer victims and other terminal diseases, the only places for him to find real emotions, and to be able to unleash his own emotions at the same time. One day on a flight, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap salesman, who has come to the same realization about life. When Jack’s apartment is burning out one night, Tyler is his only refuge and the two begin living together in a dilapidated house. In their frustration and disillusion they begin knocking each other bloody for the sheer excitement and the adrenaline rush.

Tyler has long made up his mind about society and has created his own beliefs – almost like a religion. He is opposing all material wealth and lives for the moment, unafraid of pain or death. Slowly he teaches Jack these traits as well, as they begin to build "Fight Club," an underground association where equally frustrated men can act out their primal emotions. Soon Fight Clubs spring up across the country and Tyler is hailed as a celebrity among the members. But this is only the beginning. Tyler’s plans are bigger. With establishing "Project Mayhem" his idea takes on a new and bigger shape. Not only does he renounce the material world, he also recruits an army of equally minded men and goes on a spree to destroy all signs of materialism he sees. In full-fledged anarchy, Project Mayhem doesn’t even stop at corrupting officials, and it seems the idea is unstoppable. While watching the mayhem Tyler and his apprentices cause, Jack becomes increasingly disturbed by the mindlessness of the followers, that are highly reminiscent of Orwell’s "1984" predictions, and the increasingly violent acts they pursue. He wants to put an end to the insanity, but without Tyler he can’t bring it to a halt – and Tyler has vanished!

David Fincher is known for the dark looks of his films and the fatalistic implications that can be found throughout his past work, and as such he makes the perfect director for the movie. The self-destructive tone of the entire movie, the anarchic story line and the bleak prospect are perfectly captured by Fincher’s visual and dramatic style. The film makes it clear very early on that you don’t have to agree with what Jack and Tyler are doing in numerous cases where they clearly go overboard – but their reasoning is nonetheless comprehensible. Jack is so frustrated with the illusion of his life that he would do literally anything to cause a change – and he does. With Tyler he has the opportunity to take his life in a completely new direction. While viewers see early on that the direction is doomed, Jack is blind to it, eager to just find any sort of excitement. When he realizes that ultimately this new attempt is just as bad as his previous life, it is practically too late for him to turn back. When the movie closes, he has learned a vital lesson that most of us hopefully never need. Happiness in life does not come out of extremes and fanaticism, but from within one self. Everyone is one’s own creator of happiness and piece of mind.

Presented as a 2-disc set, this DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is a spectacular release. Coming in a beautifully created packaging that is as powerful and exciting, as the content on the shiny discs, the packaging is one of the best I have seen for any DVD. An outer cardboard box that looks like a used and stained brown paper bag reveals another custom packaging on the inside, in which the two discs are placed in a colorful foldout that also holds a 20-page booklet, filled with commentary and critics’ comments.

The film itself is presented in a 2.40:1 <$PS,widescreen> presentation that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets. The transfer found on the disc is absolutely breathtaking. Without any signs of noise or grain, and devoid of any film defects, the film makes a bold and powerful appearance on this DVD. Perfectly rendered blacks that never break out, harsh highlights that are never overexposed and the full gamut of contrasts, grades and shades in between give this <$THX,THX>-certified transfer a mesmerizing look. Fleshtones are naturally rendered and overall color reproduction is very faithful. There is no edge-enhancement visible in the transfer and compression artifacts are not existent. Even upon scrutinizing examination by zooming into the picture many times, the transfer does not reveal any flaws. This is a DVD transfer as good as it gets!

On the audio side, "Fight Club" features a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track that is <$THXEX,THX EX> enhanced and contains audio information for an additional rear center channel. Fully compatible with current 5.1 systems, playback of the EX encoded channel requires additional equipment however. The audio track is engaging and very aggressive. The low ends add immense punch to the action on the screen and the high ends create a very clear presentation. Dialogues are well produced although the overall mix is putting slightly too much emphasis on the sound effects, sometimes drowning out low dialogue lines. The surround channels are used efficiently and aggressively, bringing the film to life in incomparable fashion, allowing viewers to completely immerse themselves in the story.
The music for the film is a mix between modern hip-hop/techno grooves and more traditional themes. To great effect it enhances the experience of the movie with its contemporary feel and the wide mix established, that includes very good usage of the surrounds for the music.
<$DS,Dolby Surround> audio tracks in English and French are also available on the disc, as are four separate <$commentary,commentary track>s. Director David Fincher has contributed one track in which he discusses at length the ideas, ideals and vision he had for the movie and how it all shaped up during the production. The second track features Fincher once again, this time with Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter, looking more at the characters’ side of the movie – an aspect that is equally important and well-shaped in the movie. The two remaining tracks feature writers Chuck Palanhiuk and Jim Uhls, as well as a number of crew members respectively. While I hardly believe many people will have the time to go through all the different <$commentary,commentary track>s, it is obvious from the wide variety of approaches offered, that almost everyone will find at least one track that strikes him or her as particularly interesting.
The "THX Optimode" section is also found on this disc, which help DVD users to correctly set up their audio and video equipment at home with a series of test signals, patterns and easy to understand instructions, to get the most of DVD’s capabilities.

The release’s second disc is filled with extras, almost too manifold to completely recount. A list of very extensive cast and crew biographies opens the disc. Covering more than 18 people associated with the film, this section will answer most of the biographical questions you may have had about anyone listed.
Then there is a section that takes you behind the scenes. A large number of scenes are discussed and shown in detail in this section, using multiple angles and alternate audio tracks to allow the viewer to decide what exactly he wants to see and hear. You can follow the production team as the location scout areas for the film with the director, or you can watch as scenes are shot for the movie and almost anything in between. Use your angle button and select your audio track and you will get a very complete impression how a movie like "Fight Club" comes together in terms of principal photography and special effects. A whole of 15 scenes are dissected this way, ranging from standard scenes to some of the more elaborate effects sequences. To round this section off, you will also find a 5-minute behind-the-scenes featurette here, which gives you more of a loose look of the development of the project.

Another section of the DVD houses seven deleted scenes. Nicely integrated in the screen menu itself, you will learn why each particular scene has been removed form the film before you actually get to see it. The selection is a good mix of scenes that have gone for good reason and others that have been cut for length issues or because they would have stretched the film’s narrative.

In the advertising section of the disc you will find the whole shebang that was used to promote the film. From a variety of trailers and TV spots, you will also find two interesting -and humorous – public announcements by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt here, which were used to create excitement for the film. But also a music video, 5 different Internet spots, a transcript of an interview with Edward Norton and a Production Art gallery can be found here.

Last, but not least, the DVD is also home to a very extensive gallery of storyboards, production sketches, pre-production paintings, visual effects stills, and other images surrounding the film. It will take hours just to go through all these images. Everything on these two discs is presented with a very stylish menu system that makes navigation not only easy, but also fun to watch, while it is also informative.

"Fight Club" has raised a lot of eyebrows for its violence and its glorification of anarchy, but at the same time, the film takes a clear side. Especially towards the end it becomes clear that the film tries to tell viewers that breaking out of our current society to establish another, maybe even more radical one, does not always yield the desired results. For me, "Fight Club" was a surprise. It was not what I expected and it turned out to be a much better film than I thought. The violence and fighting that was so heavily used to advertise the film actually takes up a rather small portion of the movie, which understands itself more as a rather critical social commentary than a vehicle to encourage people to go on the streets and act out their primal instincts. On top of that the film offered some racy and utterly unexpected twists and turns that caught me completely off-guard. Especially the movie’s final revelation is as astoundingly clever, as it is surprising. With his unique visual style David Fincher has once again created a memorable movie that is truly unique and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has paid full tribute to the achievement by making this a stellar DVD release.