ARCHIVE REVIEW: Fight Club

Image courtesy of Deep Focus

Fight Club
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Jim Uhls (screenplay), Chuck Palahniuk (novel)
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meatloaf

Beloved the world over by high school and college males of all ages as a philosophical masterpiece, David Fincher’s Fight Club has continuously stayed on cinema’s cerebrum ever since it became a cult hit on DVD.   Do I dare challenge the consensus that this film isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?  I almost feel obligated to.

For starters, these so-called philosophical musings.  Is a movie that promotes fighting back against a society that questions your manhood really something we should be promoting?  Isn’t that what has gotten us involved in every single conflict since the dawn of time?  What most consider unique in this film is actually just the same old masculinity complex American males are expected to suffer from.

As critic Lisa Schwarzbaum put it in her initial negative review of the film,

The giant international furnishings chain IKEA is responsible for many consumer-based phenomena, among them our docile acceptance of cheap, hinged desk lamps that droop like spent lilies. But I hadn’t realized that overexposure to IKEA results in limp penises, too, until I saw Fight Club.

This is just the first of a number of problems in this film.  What initially passes as intelligence is really just stupidity worded smartly. “We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives,” says Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden.  It really translates to “I don’t have an outlet for my aggression, so I must pout and then explode.”  Football is apparently not an option, and not being involved in World War III is a negative.

Another problem I have with this brute is its take on women.  Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) is the only female in the entire movie, and exists, as Schwarzbaum puts it, “as a trash receptacle for sex.”

I understand that the film focuses on a man’s struggle and ultimate failure to achieve his identity in any normal way, but if you’re going to incorporate a female into the narrative, does it have to be one that exists purely to spread her legs in between spouts of emasculating dialogue?

Enough about the philosophy of the film.  How does it stack up in terms of direction and acting?  Not as bad, but that isn’t saying much.  Fincher is an indisputably good director, watch Zodiac for proof of that.  He takes the grimy tone to the extreme, and sometimes it’s too much.

There’s nothing out of place on the acting front.  Edward Norton is almost always serious, and here he gets to be just that.  He doesn’t show the prowess he does in films like American History X or The Illusionist, but he’s a tolerable lead character.

Most of the hype surrounding this film revolves around Tyler Durden (Pitt).  This was important for the actor in many ways.  It gave him an image, and it gave him a signature role.  Sadly, he has to spout off a lot of the idealistic bullshit in the script.  It’s not a bad piece of acting, but it is by no means his best work.  Any renown his performance garners is based on the lines he gets to deliver, a common misconception by many movie viewers.

As a whole, this film can best be described as many talented people doing something mundane with insulting source material.  It’s absurd to think IKEA is castrating the American male; it’s even more absurd that so many take the notion to heart.

Grade: D+

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21 thoughts on “ARCHIVE REVIEW: Fight Club

  1. Pingback: The Ten Most Overrated Movies Ever « CyniCritics

    • I think that it is trying to send a really big message, but that message gets muddled too easily because it contradicts itself.

      The men are sick of fulfilling their roles in society as obedient consumers, so what do they do instead, fulfill their other societal role of being their idea of what they think “men” should be, animalistic and vulgar, which isn’t what we are.

  2. I’m sorry, but I really don’t think you could of missed the point more unless you’d tried to.
    You look furiously for flaws in a movie that are in fact intended.

    You’ll notice in the end that Tyler Durden does NOT win. The narrator comes to the conclusion that Tyler has gone beyond fixing the emasculation of males by capitalism, and into forced anarchy and complete destruction of the establishment, and has himself become an ironic hypocrisy of what he fought to achieve.

    That whole bit about sexism, intended.
    The entire model of the film is about emasculation of males and the dependency/desire to be without/inability to live without females.
    The film would be outright ridiculous if it added in female roles to suit every feminist in the world.
    And Marla? She isn’t just used for sex.
    She’s a depressed person, with flaws, like the rest of the characters but she STILL realizes that the narrator is even more messed up and leaves him.
    Or tries to.
    But by the end the narrator realizes he has strong feelings for her, and tries to save her, before ultimately casting off the abusive and sexist Durden and accepting her into his life rather than pushing her away.

    It’s been pointed out before that the narrator just had female connection issues, which is why he found comfort in Bob’s ‘bitch tits’

    There are guy films and girl films, and either gender can watch either, but the PLOT is male-centric.

    You’ve made an intentionally sensitive review and it’s a shameful thing to do.
    You can’t wake up one day and think, ‘People like it, so I should challenge it’ without even looking beneath the surface of the film.

    That bit about acting? Ed is always serious? Did you miss the bits on the plane? The awkward jokes and conversations, his entire lack of energy through the start, how about ‘flash back humor’?
    Sure for the most part Ed is serious, but is that not the part he is playing?

    Guess we should jump on Bale for being serious in batman too, huh?

    It’s over criticism like this that drives movies to become overly optimistic, so as not to offend or be sexist, or confusing, or have underlying messages.
    Seriously, get over yourself, you are not a great insight into films and you certainly don’t do your research.

    You don’t even mention the novel, interviews with writers, frequently asked questions.
    You could AT LEAST provide an unbiased view by including good parts of the film.

    This isn’t a review, it’s a nit-pick.

    Sam

    • When you’re reviewing a movie you absolutely can’t stand, it’s very difficult to include “good parts.” I stated that both Norton and Pitt did well in this movie, even if it’s not their best work.

      I expected backlash against this review, and there are several points we can agree to disagree on. Some would say Tyler Durden loses, but there is still a gigantic explosion that takes place because the people in this movie can’t cope. Timothy McVeigh is dead, but he still got a bomb off.

      To suggest I didn’t look beneath the surface of this film when I explore the many philosophical issues I have with it is kind of a contradiction. I can understand that we disagree about it, but to debase my entire review by assuming you know what I intended to do while writing it is absurd.

      • some would say?
        Tyler dies in the end, or becomes buried back into the narrator’s head. And the only people who benefitted from the tower’s coming down was the members of project mayhem.
        They destroyed the towers to make everyone equal again, and judged by their skills and characters instead of their worth. Whether it works is left up to us for a reason, because we all have differing opinions on what would happen.
        Some, like yourself, think it’s a bad thing.
        Others think it’s a good thing.
        That’s why it is left up to us to decide.

        I won’t state my preference, but I will say that I found Norton to be more iconic that Pitt in Fight Club.

        The thing we disagree on is the light in which the film is cast, but the film is from the narrator’s point of view, and as such is biased on purpose.
        A third person view would have Norton talking to himself, the twist that Pitt is imaginary is what tells us that it’s from Norton’s point of view and as such can’t be trusted completely.

        While true that some people will follow the films obvious messages blindly, some will look behind the first layer and hate it, some will continue to peel back the layers.
        Film, messages, underlying messages, original writer’s philosophical musings.

        Palahniuk has said that Tyler Durden and the narrator represent two extremes of society. Complete acceptance of commercialism and capitalism, and complete anarchy.
        The former destroys your spirit but convinces you your special, the latter convinces you your ‘not a snowflake’ but that together you can do anything.
        While the latter may be true, it eventually just leads back to the former when a hierarchy and a civilization soon rise.

        While we can disagree on the movie, and I admire your ability to speak against a popular movie, I do think you made up your mind before judging the movie.
        I could understand giving the movie a C+ at worst, but a D+?
        What’s worse is that you’ve been quoted on IMDB for why the movie got only 1 star…
        … Considering you did misinterpret some parts of the film, it hardly seems fair that it be rated down so gratuitously.

        I look forward to your reply, and one more question, do you like the Twilight series?

        Sam

        • I didn’t quote myself on IMDB, in fact I didn’t even know it was on there until now.

          Tyler may be repressed, but schizophrenia never truly goes away. He will be very much a part of Edward Norton’s psyche forever. He hasn’t been defeated, just momentarily silenced. That deranged world view will still always be there.

          The first person narration is what makes a lot of people relate to the film superficially, and I’m glad you had the ability to look past it and still enjoy it. I did not.

          I gave the movie a rating of D+ not only because I took issue with some of the philosophical misfires, but also because aesthetically, Fincher is trying way too hard to make a grungy art-house movie. I admire him as a director, but not especially in this one.

          I dislike the Twilight series for much the same reason. Bella is even worse than Helena, and the story presents her with two options, both of which are men and neither of which is “Being single.”

  3. matterspammer: You are obviously a preteen sexist bitch on her period with no taste in film genius.

    Please refrain from watching movies that exceed your mental capacity.

    That is all.

    PS. The internet isn’t for bitching.

    • You must have missed the WRITERS bio section on the blog. Matt is a online journalism student at Michigan’s top school for journalism and has been published at the Grand Central Magazine. He has done numerous articles including movie reviews and next year will be promoted to an editor position. This summer he is writing for a regional newspaper and has even made the front page. This is on top of blogging for years, earning multiple writing awards in high school and pursuiting a cinema studies degree as well.

      I’d love to see what degrees in film you are earning and what publications you have made front page on.

      So to say he is a preteen sexist bitch with no taste in film makes you the one who is bitching.

      And by no means am I saying because of these credentials his opinions and writing are better than yours or anyone else’s, I’m just respect his opinion without slander. This blog is a community for discussion, not a playground for your ignorance.

      • Oh he’s “a” online journalism student?

        Thanks for making my day.

        You are the over-protective mother figure proud of her inbred child, reciting by hard all the accomplishments they’ve achieved.

        You are the root of the problem, spouting ideas of misogyny in the the modern world into the minds of anyone with an online blog.

        I’m not bitching. I just can’t believe that someone who’s as highly acclaimed as YOU say they are can’t see genius if it hit him in the ear.

        PS. The world is my playground.

  4. Just to clarify, it was someone else who quoted you on IMDB as their reason for giving one star, it’s how I found this page.
    And I think we can all agree that Twilight is as sexist as it is terrible.

    And yes, Tyler Durden is still buried, but that’s part of the resolution. To find somewhere between the emasculated Ikea porn child, and the anarchist alpha-male sociopath.
    The end of the film shows this as Ed does not run screaming from his own anarchy, but stays by Marla.

    Another moral of the story is not to let your mind get the better of you, though this doesn’t make sense to most people.
    The end:
    ‘The gun is in your hand… The gun is in my hand’
    is the problem someone else’s fault, or your own?

    Shame you didn’t enjoy the film, a D+ is a bit steep though 😛

  5. Wait. Wait. Wait.

    Why is everyone talking about sexism like it’s a bad thing?

    Other than that, interesting review, I certianly like the film less now than I did even a few years ago, but I still find it okay.

  6. As much as I am some random user of the internet here, I feel I could use someone elses opinion on this. Yes Fight Club has ups, I loved the twist ending where it ended up just being himself. I really didn’t see it coming. I loved the satire humor and that the movie wasn’t held back from being offensive. What I do not like is the seemingly blind fan base of this movie. Is it good to be a minimalist? Absolutely, I couldn’t think of a reason why not to be. It’s good not to be a heavy consumer. Though fighting consumerism also would include giving something back, showing concern for the resources it takes from the planet. This movie doesn’t show that part but hey, I’m not expecting they show every issue, it’s just one story. However, I have met, no, every person I have met that watched this movie saw it as some revolutionary lesson. I warn strongly, do not look at this movie as some icon. As much as it tries to show you to be minimalist, you also see how quickly the sheep of the world will follow something they don’t fully understand. Tyler’s fast reign over a practical army is easily comparable to something like Hitler. He found blind control over just about the entire male population, because they are willing to follow something they didn’t fully understand. A man may easily die for something he doesn’t completely know. And here we see many people idolizing the film, thinking the violence is a good thing. I like some messages from this movie, but I will continue to feel concern for the masses so easily engrossed in a message as long as it says you have the permission to fight someone or to submit to a masculine or feminine steriotype. Either way, I feel this blind following behaviour shows far too much potential in our society for everyone to be sheep. Then again, if you were a sheep following consumerism in the first place, you might just be changing into a sheep following violence. Don’t look for answers from someone else so much. Most of these messages the movie would show you, are things your morals should help you answer yourself.

  7. Fight Club (1999) is great satire. Our Everyman main character hates the rat race. It’s only after he meets Tyler Durden that he experiences life the way he’s always wanted to. It begins with “Hit me as hard as you can,” and it ends with mayhem and destruction. We have men drawn to Tyler and his Fight Clubs because they have no sense of worth without their fights. It is only when they fight that they feel alive, and it is only through Tyler that they feel loved. Indeed, Tyler gains quite a cult following waiting on his every command, and our narrator is no different. Of course, the climax is when men start dying and our narrator decides enough is enough. Although the story seems rather unsophisticated, it is anything but. It is the underlying message within this story that matters. We do have an entire generation of men out there who don’t know how to be men because they’ve had no father figure in their lives. They think to be a man means to fight and to destroy; they’ve never had someone show them a man doesn’t have to do these things to be manly. They don’t know why they do what they do. This story is tragic, funny, and captivating. I highly recommend Chuck Palahniuk’s novel too.

  8. Tyler and Jack’s exclusive basement ritual soon spreads and becomes a very successful corporate franchise and a terrorist paramilitary organization that its co-founder is powerless to stop. Jack desperately attempts to tame his own creation-run-amok. But no matter what he says or does, his Space Monkey followers doggedly continue with their apocalyptic plan, blindly hailing him as a genius every step of the way. The critics who accuse Fight Club of promoting terrorism don’t notice that Jack is appalled by the monster he has helped to bring into the world, and that has now gone out of control — which is what happens when you let the Id run wild. On one level, Fight Club can be seen as the story of a guy who wakes up one day and discovers to his profound horror that that he is Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ted Kazinski, and Timothy McVeigh all rolled into one!

  9. I don’t like this movie either. I agree with the shallow dime-store philosophy being weak and the blatant misogyny, and on top of that I think what I may have found more offensive is the way Tyler Durden was portrayed. He’s the cool macho guy everyone wants to be, but when it comes time to turn the tables at the end of the film and show Durden for what he really is (besides a figment of Norton’s imagination) a pathetic, posturing terrorist the film chickens out. This film may have had a change at being successful if people came away from the film hating Durden and everything he stood for, but rather he’s become some sort of generation defining icon.
    I hate this movie.

  10. I didn’t like it either. I know a guy who thinks it’s the best movie ever. He makes a good point for it, but it needs you to look far below the surface in order for it to be “good,” and as you pointed out, that still doesn’t really save it. My main gripe with this movie and works of art like it are “why do I have to dig far below the surface to find the value? Why can’t I just be entertained on the surface?” If I want to venture deeper, I will, but if I chose not to, still entertain me. I like The Last of Us not because it’s a riveting commentary of what people do for their loved ones, but because I get to explore a post apocalyptic world and blow zombies heads off. All the family commentary stuff is after the fact.

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