Fight Club 2. Has it happened? Will it happen? Should it happen?
The collective answer to those three questions are of course yes. And no. Start trawling the web for word of a sequel to the 1999 cult classic turned post-modern masterpiece and one thing soon becomes apparent: the first rule of a Fight Club sequel is that you don’t talk about a Fight Club sequel. It will come as no great surprise to you that the second rule is somewhat similar in fashion and wording to the first.
Yes, I know – you’re probably rolling your eyes right now at my uninspired use of a tired and overused quote and who could blame you? Short of pulling the old deus ex machina, falling back on well-worn catchphrases is perhaps the surest sign of lazy writing… but that’s kind of my point. In the years that have passed since Fight Club oozed into existence like motor oil ‘fertilising’ a lawn, seeping jet-black nihilism all over the dewey freshness of our turn-of-the-century optimism, the film and its endlessly quotable lines have become a sort of shorthand to describe the existential travails of 21st century life.
Sneered at by some critics upon its release, Fight Club’s anti-capitalist message was reportedly so abhorrent to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch that studio president Bill Mechanic paid for the movie with his job. That said, the passage of time has been kinder to the film. Since the turn of the century, global banking scandals and corporate mis-management, the rise of organised protest movements such as Anonymous, even high profile scandals in the food industry have all to some degree formed a sharpening reflection in the mirror that Fight Club held up to the world. Like Catcher In The Rye or 1984, there’s a compelling case to be made that the text pre-empted the zeitgeist: that everything that has happened since simply proves how ahead of the curve Fight Club truly was.
So what of the reclusive Fight Club 2? Well it already exists, albeit in comic book form. Author of the original novel, Chuck Palahniuk has written a continuation of the original novel’s story that finds the original book’s narrator ten years down the line (and now named Sebastian), unhappily married to Marla Singer, and popping pills aplenty to keep the spectre of Tyler far from the feast that is his life. Not that it’s much of a feast anyway – the turgid, daily fare that is suburban Americana has proven to be an unsatisfying meal for all.
The spectre of course is far more interesting. There’s the lingering shadow of terrorist messiah, Tyler Durden who is gradually reforming on the edges of Sebastian’s psyche. Marla, who is both bored and sexually unsatisfied, is by far the most cheesed off, with a life of flatpack furniture and white picket fences and so, craving excitement she begins to substitute Sebastian’s meds for aspirins and before you can say “Bob had bitch tits”, Tyler returns.
Fight Club 2 has an adequate enough setup (although not one that a movie sequel could necessarily employ as the ending of the book and the film were markedly different). Also, the decade apart from the characters is significant in allowing us to appreciate just how dissatisfied they’ve become in their daily routines. Plus, once more using Marla as the story’s catalyst works well too; there aren’t many better agent provocateurs out there in any medium than Marla Singer.
Sadly though, beyond the initial premise, it all becomes a bit of a mess. Whilst Palahniuk ramps up some of the more interesting ideas from the original such as the notion of a fatherless America and an exploration of fascism as a tool for change, the whole thing feels somewhat rudderless, and the increasingly daft deus ex machina ending (refer back to ‘lazy writing tropes’ above) sees Palahniuk attempting (and pretty much failing) to play with comic book conventions, perhaps a victim of his own lofty aspirations given it’s his first time in the medium. Also lost in the transition from one medium to another is much of Palahniuk’s ichor-black prose that characterises his work; shifting to a form that places less emphasis on the power of words really doesn’t play to his strengths as a writer.
So, akin to Highlander II, we’re probably going to end up in a position where nobody mentions the Fight Club comic book sequel and everyone pretends it simply doesn’t exist (apart from Palahniuk who is planning another comic book follow-up.) That said, the fact that a sequel exists (albeit a poor one) could yet prove to be a boon for fans hoping for a cinematic sequel to Fincher’s 1999 classic. As is the case with T2, the successful cinematic follow-up to Trainspotting, the simple fact that a sequel to the original novel existed in the shared consciousness of creators, fans and studio executives was enough to keep interest in a movie sequel alive, in spite of Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor’s long-running tiff. Porno, the 2002 sequel to the novel Trainspotting wasn’t faithfully adapted for the sequel, and nor should it have been as it was far from Welsh’s best work – but its very existence was still important to the creation of Trainspotting 2. Perhaps the same will be true for Fight Club 2.
It’s not like Fincher needs an excuse to jump back into the world of Fight Club either. Stories surfaced last year claiming that he’s deep into the process of turning his creation into a musical alongside Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, the co-composer on his last three films. Reportedly, Fincher is of the belief that this generation has yet to spawn a definitive rock opera and the story bones of Fight Club could form the skeleton that a rock opera could reanimate. However, seek to know whether the director would be interested in returning to a straight-up cinematic sequel and the answers are far more nebulous: Fincher isn’t exactly what you’d call a prolific director of feature films; in the 16 years since Fight Club he’s made only six movies. Nor in fact does he make sequels, with Alien 3 being the only numbered film on his resume, and as you’re probably aware, he wasn’t involved with its predecessors.
As the film that defined turn-of-the-century uncertainty, it’s likely that the director wouldn’t opt to make a sequel unless the follow up had something equally profound to say. With its brazen attack on capitalist values, Fincher has called Fight Club “an act of sedition” and he has a point: the absolute creative control written into his contract allowed the director to make a film that (amongst other things) blindsided the very corporation that financed it, a beautiful self-gobbling serpent of life imitating art imitating life. With massive box offices for a sequel possible and several studios reportedly interested in financing it, the irony won’t be lost on Fincher that Fight Club 2 could very easily see that position reversed; marketed on the power of its brand and with studios looking to commodify its anti-consumerist message, a sequel could very easily find itself the victim of its own sharp-edged satire.
And what of its stars? Reports surfaced months ago that Brad Pitt was persuading Edward Norton to reprise his role in the sequel, but stories to that effect float up every once in a while before drifting away on a tide of rumour, along with the flotsam and jetsam of other innumerable would-be movie projects. What is clear is that the three main players are immensely proud of the film and continue to enjoy a great relationship with its director; if that isn’t the platform for a return to unreliable schizophrenic narrators, imaginary terrorist soap salesmen and dilapidated houses on Paper St. then I don’t know what is.
So has a return to Fight Club happened? Yes… and no. Will it happen? Yes… but as a musical – cinematically probably no. Or yes. Who knows? Should it happen? A complex question as we’ve found, with merit to be found on both sides of the argument. With that matter not settled at all and more contradictory details flying around than a Project Mayhem disinformation campaign, I’m off to watch the next episode of Mr. Robot: unreliable schizophrenic narrator? Check. Underground disaffected subculture? Check. Anti-consumerist values, even the occasional Pixies riff? Check and check. Whilst it may be Fight Club’s spiritual successor rather than its actual one, until Fincher and co. decide to go ahead and break those first two rules, it’ll have to do.