I've been a big fan of Fincher's work for sometime. His previous films "Alien 3", "Seven" and "The Game" are movies I thoroughly enjoy. That said his latest film is just as superbly made and an even more complex effort, but sadly it never gripped me and pulled me along for the ride like his last two films did - then again it isn't designed for my tastes. This is certainly one of the films which your either going to fully get into and love, or just watch and wonder what the hell is all the fuss about. The script is complex and smart, the performances solid and believable, the directing superb. Everything is there for a memorable thriller, but the box-office and mixed reviews shows it doesn't click with all audiences. Why is that? Quite simply its the limited appeal of the whole thing. This is aimed specifically at the macho male members of Generation X (those in their mid-late 20's to early 40's), the kind who were bullies in school and whose life afterwards turned out to be less than they expected (ie. it sucks).
This rules me out as I'm a member of 'Generation Y' (those now in their teens and early twenties), and I find that people who act macho usually do it to either make up for something they do not have or are throughly insecure about something (eg. life, status, sexuality, their penis size or most often their intelligence). Its basically an act with no real point other than to hide some sort of internal fear, and if you know one thing about me from my writings its that I can not stand bullshit artists who evade making a point - if you're gonna say something spit it out, if you want to dance around the issue then get the f**k out of my way. Still, most guys think the idea of heading down to a pub, chucking back a few beers, watching boxing or some other brutal sport and shouting crass comments to women in tight dresses is great fun - if you match that description you'll love this movie.
Actually it all depends upon how much you can relate to Ed Norton's character - an insomniac stuck in a job he hates who meets a wild guy whose philosophy is "why bother wasting your life acquiring possessions when in fact you can get much more pleasure getting the shit beaten out of you by a bunch of sweaty wierd looking men".
This is where the philosophy confuses me, I can understand the appeal of boxing (especially women's boxing as the girls are far more vicious to each other), but if I'm engaged in a recreational sporting activity the LAST thing I would want to happen is to see myself get hurt. Unless your a masochist and get turned on by pain, where's the appeal? You could say they get involved because the modern way of living is so emotionally desensitising tht they do it to feel something - if so can't they do something more constructive like, oh I don't know - take drugs or go out and get laid?
Its the early parts of the film that are the best - a satire of our modern consumer culture which starts off well but soon becomes so contempt of everything commercial it begins to alienate the audience slightly, thankfully it drops that track and moves onto a more subversive thriller style.
The second act gets dull at times and for a few moments there destroys its own argument - the philosophy of Fight Club is even more futile than that which its rebelling against. Its members have rebelled against being mindless automotons in a workplace by becoming mindless automotons in a small army. Thankfully, the third act picks up as twists are abound which are quite well done, and Norton begins to realise what the audience has realised pretty much from the beginning - the whole Fight Club scheme is both insane and dumb. It however is the setup for a daringly original, albeit confusing ending. The 139 minute long running time is also a tough ordeal.
With rebellious themes, the superb look, the appeal of the three lead actors and the all too infrequent bits of satire - resulting in something that's not Fincher's best work ("Seven"), but is certainly his most original. There's a lot of hidden depth, and seeing it a second time on a disc a lot of the faults the first time don't stand out as much - I wouldn't be surprised that if you don't think much of it the first time, about 2-3 more viewings later you may find yourself really starting to click to it - I know I'm finding it that way.