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FIGHT CLUB _ book vs. movie

September 9, 2009

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.

I’m a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk.  As far as minimalist writers go, he’s one of the best.  His website alone,, is an incredible resource if only for the short stories you can find there.  I’m also a big fan of David Fincher.  Though I was  disappointed with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I thought it would be fun (whee!) to revisit both the novel and film versions of Fight Club.

Both are great in their own right and I don’t really have anything negative to say about either but I’m surprised at how much I prefer the film to the book. You always hear of people being disappointed by movie adaptations so, seeing the movie before reading the book, do I suffer from some sort of reverse disappointment?

The differences between the movie and the book are, for the most part, slight and if I didn’t know almost every line and plot point from the film, I might not even notice them.  But there are a handful of differences that are large and their impact on the characters and story is significant.  Now, I’m not just going to sit here and list all these differences.  Instead, I’ll just throw out the first one that comes to mind…

Tyler Durden. The character in the book just doesn’t have the presence that the character in the movie has.  In large part, this is because the filmmakers beefed up the part for Brad Pitt.  A lot of those kick-ass lines of dialogue the character has in the movie are never said by the character in the book.  The quotes do appear somewhere in the novel but they’re either the inner dialogue of the narrator or sometimes said by other characters all together.  Now, it should be noted that these other characters that do say them are reiterating things Tyler has taught them so, I guess,  Tyler is indirectly saying them.  But they don’t have the same impact and the character doesn’t quite have the same presence because of it.

The best example I can think of is the chapter in the novel that corresponds with the scene in the movie in which Tyler and the narrator have their “near life experience.”  In the movie, it is a powerful scene that ends in a horrific automobile accident.  In the book, this scene doesn’t have half the impact, mostly because Tyler is nowhere to be found (nor does it end in a horrific crash.)  Instead, we find a character known as “the mechanic” behind the wheel, a character we had only briefly been introduced to the chapter before.   So, instead of Tyler saying all of those great things to the narrator (including the classic line “You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you”, which, I should note, comes earlier in the film) “the mechanic” says them.  This was a great catch by the filmmakers. The lack of Tyler at this point in the book seems like a flaw.  If anything, the intensity between Tyler and the narrator should be ramping up.  On the other hand, I see what Palahniuk was developing: the narrator’s broken heart, which pays off later. It’s a powerful chapter in the book, to be sure, but the screenwriters use the situation to take the scene, the story, and the characters to another level.

All right.  I’m sleepy so it’s time to wrap this up…

Fight Club the novel is an enjoyable piece of literature but Fight Club the movie is a fantastic piece if cinema.  It really makes me appreciate the work the screenwriters put into this adaptation.  To take the source material, to tweak it here and there, and make a more compelling, dramatic story, is something few other writers can achieve successfully (see my adaptation note above.)  At the moment, I’m a few chapters into Choke, another of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels that I’m re-reading. Already it’s a far better novel than Fight Club.  I haven’t seen the movie yet so I’m looking forward to finishing the book and comparing the two.  Expect a similar review in the near future but, in the meantime, I’m interested in hearing from somebody else that has seen Fight Club the movie and has read Fight Club the novel…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Hack Riven permalink
    September 10, 2009 6:04 am

    the film is such a perfect puzzle. every time i see it, i wish it could be for the first time again. the book, however, was something of a let down because of the film’s perpetual momentum. i would agree that the film spoiled the book for me. “the mechanic” chapter kind of threw a speed bump into the story as far as i am concerned. it’s been a long time since i read that book, so it’s hard to for me to go into detail. if i remember correctly, the book felt kind of hollow and awkward compared to the film. it was darker (dare i say, compared to a Fincher film) and the characters were colder. they didn’t have the presence the film had, which may have been Palahniuk’s attempt to make each one seem that much more of a common blue collar drone part of a larger picture with no direction that most of us would judge as a social outcast.

    choke: movie vs book. they each choose to concentrate on different aspects. Palahniuk’s choices are more interesting and delve a little deeper …the movie barely even touches on the stone collecting and ends very strangely to me. it feels unfinished.

  2. January 19, 2011 7:41 pm

    like button?


  1. RANT_beyond Fight Club « Klockwork Kugler: This is my blog. This is what I do.

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