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The first rule of Fight Club in China? Don’t talk about the ending

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Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club

Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club

Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club

It seems that the rules of Fight Club in China are different, as censors there have changed the ending so that the police win.

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.

Among the latest movies to undergo such treatment is David Fincher’s 1999 cult classic Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

Film fans in China noticed over the weekend that a version of the movie newly available on streaming platform Tencent Video was given a makeover that transforms the anarchist, anti-capitalist message that made the film a global hit.

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, suggesting his character’s plan to bring down modern civilisation is under way. But the new version in China has a very different take.

The Narrator still proceeds with killing off Durden, but the exploding building scene is replaced with a black screen and a coda: “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.

The new ending in which the state triumphs sparked head-scratching and outrage among many Chinese viewers – many of whom would likely have seen pirated versions of the unadulterated version of the 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 clear if government censors ordered the alternative ending or if the original movie’s producers made the changes. Tencent did not comment.

Studios often release alternative cuts in the hopes of appeasing Beijing’s censors and getting lucrative access to millions of Chinese consumers. In 2019, multiple scenes in the film Bohemian Rhapsody referencing Freddie Mercury’s sexuality were dropped in its China release.

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