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review added: 5/9/00



Fight Club
Special Edition - 1999 (2000) - Taurus Films/Fox 2000 (Fox)

review by Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

THX-certifiedEnhanced for 16x9 TVs

Fight Club: Special Edition Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
139 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.40:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, dual-disc custom slipcase/gatefold packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ???), 4 audio commentary tracks (Track 1 with director David Fincher, Track 2 with Fincher and actors Brad Pitt, Ed Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, Track 3 with novelist Chuck Palahniuk and screenwriter Jim Uhls, Track 4 with production designer Alex McDowell, D.P. Jeff Cronenweth, costumer Michael Kaplan, FX supervisor Kevin Haug and animator Doc Bailey), THX OptiMode test signals, booklet, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX) and English & French (DD 2.0 surround), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Special Edition Content
Single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), 3 theatrical trailers, 12 American TV spots, 2 International TV spots, 3 Spanish TV spots, 2 PSA's, 5 Internet spots, Dust Brothers music video, 7 deleted/alternate scenes, "on location" behind-the-scenes featurette, 14 behind-the-scenes video segments on production and visual effects with alternate video and audio tracks (accessible using the "angle" and "audio" buttons on your remote), multiple stills galleries (containing hundreds of production photos, effects stills, production artwork, storyboards, posters & lobby carts, the film's press kit and more), Ed Norton interview transcript, cast & crew bios, animated film-themes menus with sound and music


"We were raised on television to believe that we'd all be millionaires, movie gods, rock stars. But we won't. And we're starting to figure that out."

The first rule of Fight Club is... you do not talk about Fight Club.

That's a particularly hard rule to obey. Of all the films released last year, Fight Club and Being John Malkovich were the must visceral, head-twisting and true movie experiences. How could you not talk about it? Whether you liked it or not, you had no choice but to talk. It's a film that can divide an audience as if they were Elvis fans or Beatles fans. You either love it or you hate it. I was one of the lovers of this film, but I had a good reason. I read the book.

Second rule of Fight Club... you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is something that just crawls into your brain and talks FOR you, not TO you. In many ways, it's the perfect book for the last days of Generation X. In the beginning, we were bored so we rebelled by not conforming. Then we recreated business so that now every company and every person out there with a dot-com somewhere on their business card is a virtual millionaire. That's a literal use of virtual. You'll see... we're heading for a serious crash, and it WILL come. How could it not? None of these multi-million dollar web companies is made of real money - it's all stock based. Palahniuk presents to us a world (our world) where men are bored and have gone looking for the caveman within. He reasons that as human males, we need to hunt, we need to fight... and we need to do just about anything but thumb through an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue circling the sweaters we need for next season. It's a frightening look at ourselves and, at the same time, it's a refreshing perspective. If you haven't read the book, I suggest you do so - it's just a great, kick-ass piece of fiction. There are a few elements in it that help the film make more sense and, in my opinion, Palahniuk's opening and ending are more satisfying than what we get in the film.

Third rule of Fight Club... when someone says stop or goes limp, the fight is over.

Fight Club stands as one of my favorite film-book combos. A film-book combo is a brilliant companion set, where you almost NEED to read the book before you see the movie in order to fully make sense out of them both. Take for example my Number One favorite combo, Crash. I get sick when I hear people talk about the film sucking. I just want to turn around and get very far away from them. I'm not saying that I think they're wrong or stupid or not worth my time - I just think that they should have done more research. J.G. Ballard's book Crash is one of the most incredible things I've ever taken the time to look through. The book has almost nothing to do with the film. Well, it does... but the connection is so minimal that the book is really it's own thing. David Cronenberg did a very good job visualizing and capturing the essence of the book. I can't imagine another filmmaker out there who could have handled it better. If you read the book and then saw the film, you'd think the film was brilliant. But the film, on its own, may not satisfy everyone. Fight Club works the same way. There's a lot more to the internal workings of the book - even someone as gifted as Edward Norton could only scratch the surface. But having read the book, you can see exactly what's going on in every look, gesture and motion he gives. It gives the experience of the film that much more payoff.

Fourth rule of Fight Club... only two guys to a fight.

Fight Club follows an unnamed narrator played by Edward Norton. He has an office job, a great apartment filled with many beautiful things and what most of us would call a life. But he's having problems sleeping and goes to the doctor about it. He learns that it has nothing to do with any physical problems in him, but he's recommended to attend a support group meeting. He does, and he soon becomes addicted to it - if there's a disease for something, he'll be at the support group. It's cathartic for him to see others whose suffering is worse than his own. He can feel better about himself by holding these dying people in his arms. It's at these meetings that he meets Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), a chain smoking death chick with a similar addition to human suffering. Like him, she's a tourist at these meetings, and it's making him feel guilty. So he confronts her about it, and they agree to alternate nights and groups, as if these 12-step programs were their children. This also invites her into his life.

About this same time, Norton bumps into Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a messiah of sorts who works as a hotel waiter, film projectionist and all-around entrepreneur. When Norton's apartment is mysteriously blown up, he calls his new friend Tyler for a place to crash. It's there that the two of them start Fight Club. Together they create an underground movement of men, who have lost their way in life and figure they can beat it back into each other. Tyler is the ringleader and, slowly but surely, the club becomes an organization and the one-on-one fights turn into full-scale war on the world. They form a terrorist group known as Space Monkeys (because the first astronauts were chimps taught to pull levers and buttons) to wage that war. And when Norton finally realizes what's going on, it's up to him to stop Tyler and the Space Monkeys before it's too late. But he first has to find the elusive Tyler, and that may prove harder than he thinks.

Fifth rule of Fight Club... one fight at a time.

Fight Club is a very easy target for critics. The point can validly be made that director David Fincher and company are glorifying violence. I don't think they are. I think there's a greater point to be made. If you're less P.C. than most, you might not see more than the face value of Fight Club. Hell - you might even like the film based on its face value alone. But you'd be cheating yourself out of the film's deeper meanings if you didn't take the time to try and understand it. Reading the book helps. But you have to try to apply some of that meaning. If you looked at the film on a personal level, you'd see how "true" most of it is. Maybe it's truer for someone in their late 20s or early 30s than it would be for a baby boomer, but I don't identify with hippies (and I'm sure they wouldn't want me to). There's anger at the heart of both this book and this film. There's anger behind the people who made it. We earned that anger, but we don't wallow in it. Fincher and Palahniuk have presented us with an open love letter to that anger, and we're free to interpret it as we like. Speaking for myself, I identified with it and really appreciated it. You might have a different take on it. But there's no denying the power (and yes... even value) of the film.

Sixth rule of Fight Club... no shirt, no shoes.

Norton and Pitt are really great and they work well together. For all the bad things one could find in the film, you can't find anything wrong in the performances. Even the supporting characters are great. Fincher really is proving to be the Stanley Kubrick of the new generation of filmmakers (as observed by Pitt in Premiere magazine). His attention to detail, and the way he uses the camera to tell the story, are touches of genius most filmmakers only hope to master. In most every way, Fight Club is a perfect film. If it has any faults, it would be in terms of digital special effects. At times they seem a bit "rushed" - for example, a shot of a garbage can or when the camera speeds down the side of a building, into a parking garage and right to a van parked therein. They just look too computerized and don't quite grab you. But at other times, like with the opening credits or when Norton gives Pitt a piece of his mind at the end, the effects work. CGI is a fickle mistress. The best thing in the film is the score by electronic DJs The Dust Brothers. I still rock out to that in my car. It's a perfect blend of old and new, and captures everything that needs to be captured in the film. All in all, the film comes together quite well. But as much as I loved this movie in theaters, I still can't believe how much more I love it on DVD.

Seventh rule of Fight Club... fights go on as long as they have to.

Let's get the video and audio out of the way first. The video looks fantastic in full anamorphic widescreen (at a 2.40:1 aspect ratio). It isn't quite reference quality, but this isn't exactly one of those reference quality flicks either, is it? Fight Club is a dark, gritty, color-washed out, underexposed head-trip... and you see every bit on that on this DVD. There's some light grain and occasional artifacting, but it's very minor and only enhances the look of the film. What you do get is crisp (yet smooth) looking video, deep blacks befitting a Fincher picture, excellent detail (particularly in shadows, where most of this film takes place) and nicely accurate (if muted) color which makes all that badly bruised flesh look like... well, badly bruised flesh. What else do you want?

The audio here is also great. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is terrifically atmospheric. This is a film jam-packed with subtle little sound cues, audio transitions and distant wild sounds. You'll hear every one, but not just from 5 isolated locations in your soundfield. No... this audio environment is very unified and smooth from channel to channel. Dialogue is nicely clear and the soundstage is very deep and wide, with rich and substantial bass. The mix goes from blissfully subtle to aggressively attacking with ease, without ever sounding forced or imbalanced. And the Dust Brothers never sound so good. The 5.1 track DOES have flags for EX-ready systems. 2.0 surround sound is also available in English and French flavors, if you've just gotta have it.

Eighth and final rule of Fight Club... if this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.

Fight Club's two discs make The Abyss on DVD look like a production that Mike Brady and Ward Cleaver hooked up to do. The difference here is the quality of the interactivity. Instead of page after page of white text on a blue background, everything here is true to the theme of this movie. So instead of looking like a glorified laserdisc, this is a true multimedia experience perfectly tailored to the strengths of the DVD format.

And the extras! Starting on Disc One, you get the film, along with no less than four individual commentary tracks. The first features director David Fincher solo, and it's a very fun and easy listen. What strikes me most about Fincher's comments here is his sense of humor, his attention to detail and his perceptiveness. His comments on the legal aspect of the movie biz, from the perspective of a filmmaker, are especially interesting given the nature of this film. On track two, we have Fincher, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton all in the same room. Helena Bonham Carter is also on this track, but was recorded separately. This is definitely the most entertaining of the commentaries - you can tell the boys were having a good time looking back at the film, and their easy banter is extremely funny. A third track features Chuck Palahniuk himself, along screenwriter Jim Uhls. They're also fascinating to listen to, as they delve into the characters and their motivations. I can't think of the last time I heard the writer and screenwriter on their own commentary track - very cool. And a final track features other members of the production crew, including the director of photography, the costume designer and the effects supervisor among others, as they discuss the making of the film. Also on the first disc is a THX OptiMode feature that provides audio and video test patterns to help you properly adjust your home theater. Sweet.

Then there's Disc Two. There's meat on this disc, no doubt about it. The material is divided into 5 basic sections: Crew, Work, Missing, Advertising and Art. Crew is pretty straight-forward. It's a section of cast & crew bios and filmmographies. But in this case, you get some 18 listings - everyone from the actors and director to the writers and even the Dust Brothers. Very comprehensive. The Work section is where you'll find lots of behind-the-scenes video clips, also divided into sections: Production, Visual Effects and On Location. But these aren't yer ordinary featurettes. Just about every one has multiple video & audio tracks! For example, you can watch a segment on the Alternate Main Titles without text, as the preview version or with two alternate fonts styles (you can change between them on-the-fly using your remote's "angle" button). You can also listen to one of two audio tracks - the original main title theme or an alternate, unused theme. Finally, you can access production art which serves as a map for the sequence. And this is just ONE of FOURTEEN such video featurettes. Some of them even have optional Fincher audio commentary.

But don't hold your breath, 'cause we're not even close to done. You also get 7 deleted or alternate versions of scenes, including Marla's infamous "I wanna have your abortion" line. And the video quality of these is very good - not anamorphic, but very good. This is no time-coded, raw, saved-on-VHS footage. When you select each scene from the menu, a bit of text appears to tell you why the scene was cut or changed. And there's more. The Advertising area gives you access to 3 theatrical trailers (including one that was unused but was finished just for this DVD), 17 TV spots used in U.S., International and Spanish markets, a Dust Brothers music video for the theme, 5 Internet spots, 2 hilarious PSA's done by Norton and Pitt ("Did you know that urine is sterile? You can drink it."), a packed gallery of promotional artwork (featuring lobby cards, one sheet art, production stills and the film's press kit) and a transcribed interview that Norton did at his alma mater, Yale University, about the film. Still not enough for you? Okay, there's also an Art section with access to production artwork, storyboards, more production photos - you name it. There are literally hundreds of still images to sift through on this disc. Oh... and did I mention the cool booklet? You get a cool booklet too.

Bottom line? If you wanna check out everything on this set, you'd better quit your office job, stock up the fridge and set aside a few days to do so. We've said it once or twice before, but we'll never say it lightly again: this 2-disc set simply redefines the DVD special edition. It's arguably the single most stylish, well-planned and well-executed format entry to date, and it's got our early vote for Best DVD of 2000.

The Ninth rule of Fight Club is... you must buy this DVD of Fight Club.

Okay... so there isn't a Ninth rule. But you get the idea. If Fight Club the film is like an outrageously expensive full body massage with flying bricks thrown at you by East German girl scouts, Fight Club the DVD is where the scouts pick you up off the floor, slap and kick your broken body back into consciousness and stuff your mouth full of those really f@#king awesome peanut butter cookies you ordered six months ago. Sure... it's an ass-kicking assault. But you're gonna die happy as a clam.

There are a lot of people who are gonna bitch and moan about this film. As for me and Todd... we are Jack's DVD whores. Get it. Watch it. Put it on your shelf with all those nice little DVD movies you own. Just don't set it next to Pretty Woman or Steel Magnolias or some other nice fluffy disc. That would be bad. At the very least, separate 'em with Dogma or A Clockwork Orange or something.

Wonder if they're gonna sell this disc at IKEA?

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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