Hollywood’s no stranger to tailoring movies for Chinese audiences, be it the extra footage cut out of the domestic version of Iron Man 3, or the kissing scene cut from Mulan to please censors. The latest example of censoring for China involves David Fincher’s now-classic Fight Club, which recently emerged with a radically different ending than the filmmaker intended.
As Vice reported Monday, Chinese viewers watching the movie on the Tencent Video streaming site didn’t get the original ending, which had the Narrator (played by Edward Norton) kill off his Tyler Durden alter-ego (played by Brad Pitt), followed by watching buildings collapse in an explosion, alongside co-star Helena Bonham Carter’s Marla Singer character, soundtracked to the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”
In the version on Tencent, a graphic appears before the explosion scene — which, as the Vice article pointed out, was meant to illustrate “Tyler’s anarchist plan to destroy consumerism is in the works.” The graphic read:
“Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the while plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding,” the text presented in this new version of the production reads. “After the trial, Tyler was sent to a lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”
The article goes on to wonder the ending was altered due to self-censorship or by official order. While Tencent did not comment, author Viola Zhou noted, “a source familiar with the matter said the film was edited by the copyright owner and then approved by the government before it was sold to streaming sites for distribution.”
Fight Club was only officially screened in China during the Shanghai International Film Festival, but the Vice article notes that many Chinese movie fans have likely watched pirated versions of it since its release. News of the alternate ending was met with bemusement and scorn, with Washington Post India bureau chief Gerry Shih observing, “In China, Fight Club has a different ending: instead of Ed Norton blowing up buildings, he’s arrested by the state. Lord of War too: instead of evading justice Nicholas Cage is .. .arrested by the state.”
He then added, “Can’t quite put my finger on the pattern.”
While it’s easy to see how Fight Club might rub Chinese authorities the wrong way, there’s a history of even innocent characters being curtailed by censors — as the Guardian noted in 2018, even Winnie the Pooh encountered the banhammer after online commenters use images of the portly bear for some years prior to mock President Xi Jinping.