UPDATE Feb. 7, 2022: Following international backlash, Tencent has restored the original ending.
Original story, published Jan. 25, 2022:
When it comes to China, the first rule of Fight Club should have been: “You do not change the ending to Fight Club.”
In the latest bizarre news from the world of Chinese censors versus Hollywood, the nation’s largest streamer, Tencent Video, is showing a version of David Fincher’s 1999 classic thriller that completely cuts the original climactic scenes, replacing them with text on screen that imagines an entirely new finale to the film.
As you recall, the U.S. theatrical version concludes with the Narrator’s (Edward Norton) revelation that he and eccentric brawler-turned-terrorist Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are one in the same. After the Narrator “kills off” his alter ego in the waning moments, he and his very confused girlfriend Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) watch as his bombs detonate in surrounding buildings, sending each structure in the nearby skyline crumbling to the ground.
In the new Chinese edition, the film ends before its concerto of explosions, instead offering a revisionist conclusion via a title card that reads:
“Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum [sic] receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”
In other words: Government wins, anarchy loses.
FIGHT CLUB’s ending for the Chinese release (on Tencent Video) was changed to this and now I’m waiting for someone to fanfic a sequel based on this censored ending. pic.twitter.com/zYB0bY3Dlp
— Courtney Howard @ #Sundance (@Lulamaybelle) January 24, 2022
Fight Club’s new finale is the latest in a long of line of American films tweaked, edited or even banned for Chinese audiences, dating back nearly a century.
In the 1930s, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 biblical epic The Ten Commandments was banned in China under a category of “superstitious films” for its religious content. Frankenstein (1931), Alice in Wonderland (1933) and Ben-Hur (1959) faced similar bans. Even the 1985 favorite Back to the Future was banned for its depiction of time travel, while 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (unflattering depiction of China), 2005’s Brokeback Mountain (homosexuality) and 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (cannibalism) were also nixed from theaters.
The country has leaned more toward censorship than outright banning of late. Kate Winslet’s nudity was removed from the 1997 Oscar winner Titanic, violent scenes were altered in 2013’s Django Unchained and gay content was cut from the 2018 Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, among recent examples.
Though it’s not always editors in China doing the censoring.
As Variety reports, the film’s producers or distributors can offer edited versions to Chinese theaters or streamers, which is believed to be the case with Fight Club.
“For anyone familiar with how business is done between copyright owner and companies who buy the distribution rights for a certain region, it’s clear that the company who brought the distribution rights for the China market sold this version to Tencent Video,” a source close to the streaming service told Variety.
Twitter, of course, has plenty of thoughts on the censorship.
The second rule of Fight Club is “we will do and say whatever the Chinese communist censors tell us to do and say.” https://t.co/aw3A4quybS
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 25, 2022
“The first rule of Fight Club in China? Don't mention the original ending. The second rule of Fight Club in China? Change it so the police win.” https://t.co/mxaoKwhmvy pic.twitter.com/kMzFTbv4nQ
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) January 25, 2022
Chinese censors edited the ending of FIGHT CLUB to make it less subversive and this is how they did it. It’s not the tyranny that is breathtaking so much as the hackery. https://t.co/M6xshyQe7Q pic.twitter.com/ybf7kL5EUz
— Patrick Radden Keefe (@praddenkeefe) January 25, 2022
Mfw (my face when) I watched the Chinese version of fight club, and Tyler was sent to a mental hospital to get the help and care he truthfully needed.:( pic.twitter.com/CTA45yoH3H
— Kazimir (@homestreakz) January 24, 2022
The Chinese version of Fight Club ends with a title card explaining how the brave police successfully defused Tyler's bombs and arrested all the members of Project Mayhem.
This is the market the entire film industry is fighting over
This is art under communism pic.twitter.com/hnMQJPMDj4
— YOUTUBE.COM / VITOTWO (@VitoGesualdi) January 24, 2022