Chinese Communist censors restore original Fight Club ending

Tyler Durden beats the Chinese censors: Communists restore the ending of Fight Club after outcry at their cut of film’s finale which said police had foiled anarchist plot

  • Streaming platform Tencent Video edited the 1999 cult classic’s ending
  • Instead of multiple buildings exploding, the authorities win in censored version
  • Now it has backtracked and reinstated the original version, minus nude scenes 

The original anarchist ending of Fight Club has been restored by Chinese censors after an edited version in which the police foiled the plot prompted outrage.

Streaming platform Tencent Video had edited the 1999 classic film due to Beijing’s restrictive censorship rules.

In the original closing scenes, star Edward Norton’s narrator kills his imaginary alter-ego Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, before watching multiple buildings explode, suggesting his character’s plan to bring down modern civilisation.

But the version on Tencent instead closed with a line of text on a black screen to say the police ‘rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals’.

In a rare censorship reversal, however, Tencent this week began to air the original conclusion of David Fincher’s film, including the iconic explosive ending that was trimmed last month.

The latest version has restored 11 of the 12 minutes that had been cut, and the scenes that are still missing are those featuring nudity.  

The original anarchist ending of Fight Club has been restored by Chinese censors after an edited version in which the police foiled the plot prompted outrage 

Human Rights Watch had described the cuts as ‘dystopian’.

Author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the 1996 novel that Fight Club was adapted from, tweeted that China had ‘done the right thing’.

But he had previously praised their censored ending, saying it was closer to the finale of his novel.

Tencent did not reply to questions on what led to the censorship, nor its abrupt reversal, which prompted more debate online.

‘Now, I’m speechless!’ wrote one Chinese film fan, with the sentiment echoed across social media.

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’

Palahniuk had told TMZ: ‘The irony is that… they’ve aligned the ending almost exactly with the ending of the book, as opposed to Fincher’s ending, which was the more spectacular visual ending. 

‘So in a way, the Chinese brought the movie back to the book a little bit.’ He added: ‘I don’t think that was their intention, but I think they definitely looked at the book and decided – what’s the happy medium here?’

The author also spoke of how China’s change is not the first time the story’s ending has been changed, and that he is now grown accustomed to its censorship.

‘My books are heavily banned throughout the US. The Texas prison system refuses to carry my books in its library, a lot of public schools and most private schools refuse to carry my books, but it’s only an issue when China changes the end of a movie?’ he told the TMX interviewers.

‘I’ve been putting up with book banning for a long time,’ he added with a smirk.

When the interviewers pointed out that he seemed relaxed about the changes, Palahniuk said: ‘A lot of my overseas publishers have edited the novel itself, so the novel ends the way the movie ends. So I’ve been dealing with this kind of revision for 25 years.’

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk (picture left) praised China’s ‘happy ending’ cut of David Fincher’s 1999 movie, starring Brad Pitt , Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, which sees authorities foil the hero’s anti-establishment plot to bring down capitalist civilisation

The author expanded on this in a Substack post, saying that foreign publishers would made such changes without his permission. 

In Palahniuk’s novel, The Narrator sets out to stop Durden’s plot. However, Durden vanishes before he sets the bombs off, with the narrator realising he was his alter ego all-along. Taking control of his own destiny, The Narrator shoots himself in the head, but fails to kill himself – waking up in a mental hospital. 

The movie’s 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. 

Speaking to The Guardian, Dr How Wee Ng, a Chinese film and media teacher at the University of Westminster in London, explained the reasoning behind the change.

‘The new Chinese version of puts power back into the hands of the police and implies an ideal closure in line with the Chinese state discourse in which the symbiotic relationship between the police and the state is a given,’ he said.

‘This treatment is commonplace in many Chinese television dramas and films which represent crime and violence,. Ironically, the force with which censorship is imposed stems from a Chinese historical fear of social instability and the presupposition of threat to the status quo.’ 

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. 

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.’

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