Movies of 1999 – Fight Club

Fight Club, based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same title, was considered a box office failure. It earned approximately $36 million during its box office run. If you watched the trailer above, you’ll notice that it doesn’t do the movie justice.

The plot, summarized as succinctly as possible, is about a corporate man’s (fans know this character as Jack) insomnia that ultimately puts him in touch with anarchistic character named Tyler Durden.  Tyler is everything his desk jockey counterpart is not; aggressive, impractical, daring, accepting of others but hating of conformity, and completely insane. Tyler could be considered a blue collar/middle class Robin Hood – he’s rebelling against an institution (credit, government, etc) that no longer looks out for the little guy while encouraging other people to break the norms in favor of doing what they want versus what society tells them to do.   Tyler starts a series of fight clubs across the country, starting a counter-culture movement and creating an army to destroy the empire built by credit card companies.

The movie’s twist makes it great, and I apologize if you haven’t seen it, but it turns out that Tyler Durden is a manifestation of Jack’s subconsicious and this second personality has been using Jack’s body when he’s asleep.

The impact of this movie is widespread. DVD sales almost doubled box office revenue. Worldwide, the movie did $100 million in its international release.  The movie did much better in theaters outside of the United States. My guess is that people in the U.S. caught the movie at the tail end of its run, told others to see it. In the early days of the Internet, this movie probably benefited from word-of-mouth reviews.

It also seems to have spawned lots of underground fight clubs.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but there is some documentation to this.  I know I’ve seen several investigative journalism pieces on this topic. I’m not really into pain, so I haven’t joined any fight clubs myself.

I watched this movie again a few weeks ago and think it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s got some lasting appeal, but maybe that’s generational. I feel the film is a commentary on the state of our society. Lots of people feel lost in the corporate shuffle.  We do what is expected of us, and not so much what we want to do.  It may not hold the same interest to people 20 years from now. Time will tell.

You’ll notice a trend forming. As with the Matrix, the story talks about how society shapes us and expects to act a certain way.  The Marquis de Sade actually wrote a good bit about this.  His philosophy was basically “does a person not do something because they think society will think poorly of their actions, or do they not do something because they don’t want to?” I think his writing came about as a way to justify his sexual deviance, but it can be applied to other topics as well.

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