The first rule of censorship is… you don’t talk about censorship! China gives Fight Club a ‘happy ending’ where police foil anarchist plot
- Version of Fight Club available in China on streaming platform Tencent Video
- But it had been radically edited so as to transform the anarchist, anti-capitalist message that made the film a global hit
- Instead of multiple buildings exploding, the authorities win in censored version
China has radically edited the original ending of the cult classic film Fight Club to comply with the country’s restrictive censorship rules.
A version of David Fincher’s 1999 film, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, was made available in China on streaming platform Tencent Video over the weekend.
But much to the dismay of fans in China, Fight Club had been radically edited so as to transform the anarchist, anti-capitalist message that made the film a global hit.
Instead of multiple buildings exploding, as in the original ending, the authorities win in the new censored version.
China has some of the world’s most restrictive censorship rules with authorities only approving a handful of foreign films for release each year – sometimes with major cuts.
A version of David Fincher’s 1999 film, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, was made available in China on streaming platform Tencent Video over the weekend
In the closing scenes of the original, Norton’s character The Narrator, kills off his imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden – played by Pitt – and then watches multiple buildings explode with Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), suggesting his character’s plan to bring down modern civilisation is underway.
In the censored version released in China, The Narrator still kills off Durden, but the exploding buildings scene is replaced with a written message on black screen: ‘The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.’
It then adds that Tyler – a figment of The Narrator’s imagination – was sent to a ‘lunatic asylum’ for psychological treatment and was later discharged.
In the closing scenes of the 1999 film Fight Club, Norton’s character watches multiple buildings explode with Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter)
But in the censored version released in China, the exploding buildings scene is replaced with a written message on black screen: ‘The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding’
The new ending in which the state triumphs sparked outrage among many Chinese viewers – many of whom would likely have seen pirated versions of the unadulterated version film.
‘This is too outrageous,’ one viewer commented on Tencent Video.
”Fight Club’ on Tencent Video tells us that they don’t just delete scenes, but add to the plot too,’ a user wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
It is not currently clear if government censors ordered the alternative ending or if the original movie’s producers made the changes.
Tencent did not comment on the matter.
Hollywood studios often release alternative cuts in the hopes of clearing Beijing’s censorship hurdles and getting lucrative access to millions of Chinese consumers.
In 2019, multiple scenes in the film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ referencing iconic musician Freddie Mercury’s sexuality – a pivotal part of his biography – were dropped in its China release.
Under President Xi Jinping, Chinese authorities have pushed to purge society of elements deemed unhealthy, including within movies, television, computer games.
They have also launched sweeping state crackdowns on tax evasion and perceived immoral behaviour in the entertainment industry, a tightening that has already targeted some of the country’s biggest celebrities.
On Tuesday, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced it was launching a month-long ‘clean’ web campaign to create a ‘civilised and healthy’ atmosphere online over the Lunar New Year holiday.
What happens in the original 1999 film Fight Club?
Fight Club revolves around Edward Norton’s character The Narrator and his imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden – played by Brad Pitt.
The Narrator, who suffers from insomnia, joins support groups for the emotional catharsis they provide. It is at one support group he meets Maria Singer, played by Helena Bonham Carter, who is also another ‘faker’.
The Narrator later meets Durden, a soap salesman, on a flight home from a business trip.
But when he returns home, the Narrator finds his apartment and belongings destroyed in an explosion.
He asks for help from Durden, who says he will let the Narrator live with him if he ‘hits him as hard as he can’.
This interaction transcends into the secret Fight Club, where men beat one another to a pulp in an attempt to feel more alive.
Durden later hatches a plot called ‘project mayhem’, which included recruiting members of the Fight Club to help conduct attacks on symbols of corporate America.
The Narrator eventually realises that Durden is in fact his alter-ego and a figment of his imagination – he assumed Durden’s personality when he believed he was sleeping.
The Narrator then uncovers Durden’s plans to erase world debt by destroying buildings containing credit card records.
In the closing scenes of Fight Club, The Narrator kills off his imaginary alter ego Durden by shooting himself in the mouth. This means the Narrator ceases to mentally project Durden.
The Narrator, along with Maria Singer, then watches multiple buildings containing credit card records explode before turning to Maria and saying: ‘You met me at a very strange time of my life.’