Fight Club is a Twentieth Century Fox production shot in 1998 and released in the United States in 1999. The film is based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk of the same name. The rights to the novel were acquired by producer Laura Ziskin for $10,000 in 1996. The film was directed by David Fincher from a script by Jim Uhls, with some assistance from Andrew Kevin Walker. Fincher worked with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth to capture the film's dark and moody visuals using the Super 35mm film format. The film was produced by Ross Grayson Bell, Cean Chaffin, John S. Dorsey, Art Linson, and Arnon Milchan. The film's score was supplied by the Dust Brothers. Upon its release the film met with tepid reviews and a less-than-stellar box-office response. Since its release on DVD the film has become a cult favorite.
Directors Peter Jackson, Danny Boyle, and Bryan Singer were all approached to direct the film by the studio, but each declined for various reasons. David Fincher had made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire the rights to the book himself. He had a discussion about directing the film with producer Laura Ziskin but had his reservations about working for Twentieth Century Fox again after his experience directing Alien 3. Fincher eventually agreed to sign on as director and Fox announced his involvement in August 1997.
Palahniuk has stated that his book grew out of an altercation he had while on a camping trip. He returned to work with bruises and swelling but none of his co-workers asked what had happened. Their desire to avoid the details of his life inspired him to write the novel.
The film revolves around a nameless narrator, sometimes referred to in the film's script as Jack. Jack works a miserable job as a recall coordinator for the auto industry. He spends his time flying around the country writing up accident reports on collisions involving his company's cars in order to determine if a recall is necessary. In his spare time, he attends support groups for people with terminal illnesses, even though he is perfectly healthy. He meets a woman named Marla Singer who is also attending these meetings, and is also completely healthy. Jack rejects Marla because she reminds him of himself. Jack eventually meets a quirky but charismatic soap salesman named Tyler Durden and the two begin a secret club called Fight Club. Men gather at secret locations to engage in fighting.
While this violent behavior could be chalked up to nihilistic attitudes or psychopathological inclinations, the film explains that these men are looking for meaning in their lives. By fighting they feel something real. They feel alive. Fight Club progresses into a philosophy and finally into Project Mayhem. Tyler is planning something big, a means to re-set the evolution of human civilization.
The film is told through Jack's voice-over, drawn directly from Palahniuk's novel. Fincher uses it to skewer our modern consumer lifestyle and the career-oriented goals our society imposes to enforce it. As Project Mayhem becomes a more radical version of Fight Club, Jack breaks away from Tyler, distancing himself from a way of life he no longer condones. Jack comes to realize that he and Tyler are actually the same person and that Tyler is not real, but a mere projection of Jack's own id run amok. Because Marla only knows Jack as Tyler, she becomes a threat. Tyler wants her "taken care of." Jack realizes that what he has been really looking for this whole time is someone to connect with and a means to accept himself. He and Tyler clash in the film's climax over Marla. Jack rids himself of the specter of Tyler while saving Marla, and himself.
The film deals with themes of isolationism, emasculation, consumer culture, violence, and the success/failure dichotomy that tends to permeate modern life. While many critics were turned off by the film's violent fight scenes, the film did provide a viewpoint for a younger generation faced with the consumer and advertising values of the Baby Boomer generation.