Saturday, 9 April 2016

Fight Club 2 Review (Chuck Palahniuk, Cameron Stewart)

10 years after Project Mayhem… 

He’s called Sebastian these days. Married to Marla Singer, the two have a son, Junior. Released from the funny farm with a heavy-duty pill regimen, he works an office job, she plays the doting housewife, and both are crushingly bored. The pills keep… him… away. Except Marla’s been substituting Sebastian’s pills with sugar out of desperation for a good lay! The urge for a good fight is building again. Now “someone’s” kidnapped their son. He’s back. And this time Tyler Durden will bring about Armageddon! Rize or Die. 

I re-read Fight Club a couple of years ago and was delighted that it still held up after so long. And when I heard the sequel was coming out – as a comic no less! – I couldn’t’ve been more pumped. I was a bit worried that Palahniuk might stumble in the change of format as this would be his first comic but was reassured when I heard Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, Sex Criminals) was consulting on the script, helping him break it down into comics layouts. Cameron Stewart was drawing it with Dave Stewart (no relation) on colours and David Mack doing the covers – Chuck had a fantastic art team joining him on this story. 

So – and I really hate to say this as a huge fan of these characters - it’s damn disappointing how utterly crap Fight Club 2 turned out to be. 

SPOILERS from here on out! 

All sequels riff on what they follow for obvious reasons and Fight Club 2 is the same – except it does so gratuitously and pointlessly. Some of it makes sense like Marla in desperation falling back on going to terminally ill patients’ support groups, Sebastian going back to Paper St. to get to Tyler and find his son and I liked seeing what happened to Angelface after so many years. But why the fuck is Robert Paulson (The Big Moosie, Meat Loaf’s character from the movie) back from the dead and lumbering around??? 

We see him at Chuck’s house (yup, he wrote himself into the story but I’ll get to that later), we see him topless in a war zone (close up on those bitch tits, yeah!), and then we see him risen from the dead – I know the chronology is fucked. Why? No idea. Nostalgia? “Comedy”? It’s such a bizarre and stupid element to include. Even fucking Chloe is in this – “Joni Mitchell/Meryl Streep’s skeleton” (depending on whether you remember the book or movie quote)! That doesn’t make sense either, especially given how she looks now! It’s too many call-backs to the original none of which add anything good to the story. 

So Marla makes friends with the patients in the progeria syndrome support group (a disease that rapidly ages the appearances of kids). According to Fight Club 2, all terminally ill patients are expert hackers AND commandos, parachuting out of planes on para-military missions! Rize or Die International, Tyler’s organisation that is the largest provider of for-hire military personnel, can’t stand up to a terminally ill kid wielding a knife apparently! It makes zero sense but I guess, er, “comedy”, right? Hi-larious. But let’s give Chuck the benefit of the doubt - maybe it’s a satirical comment on contemporary society, how grown-ups behave more like kids these days and the progeria patients reflect the switched roles: kids who look like old people. Nah, that’s probably bullshit. 

These are minor problems though compared to the clangers Palahniuk drops in the final act. Apparently Tyler is no longer a dangerous split personality, he’s a malignant sentient mental virus flitting from host to host over countless years – Sebastian is just the latest vessel and his son is next in line, kinda like Rosemary’s Baby. Wow. That’s Palahniuk’s midichlorians moment right there. 

And still it gets worse. 

The story goes from Tyler kidnapping Sebastian and Marla’s son to Armageddon/rebooting civilisation, which is a decent story – nothing mind-blowing, kinda predictable as it’s like the first book but still sorta interesting – and then Palahniuk gives up towards the end because he has no idea how to end it. I mean literally gives up as we can see him in the book itself! 

Palahniuk writes himself into this story, patting himself on the back for the impact Fight Club has had on pop culture from Pint Clubs to Film Clubs to Bite Clubs. He even heads up a small writing workshop called Write Club! And while I thought it was a weird quirk that he made cameos throughout, I had no idea the finale was going to be about Chuck talking about what a mess the ending was and how much the fans would hate it. 

“The fans” literally appear en masse to complain about the shitty way he ends the story – he’s already aware of the reader reaction to this garbage! And then Tyler shoots him in the head because why the fuck not, he hasn’t got any idea what he’s doing anymore. I was reminded why I haven’t read any Palahniuk since Lullaby in 2002 - whatever talent this guy had has long since disappeared. Maybe he’s lamenting that fictional creations always outlive and eclipse their creator? I can’t imagine Fight Club 2’s point would be so banal but then again the author has turned into a hack so it might be. 

The first Fight Club captured the zeitgeist and gave pop culture the iconic Tyler Durden. More than that, it told a great story perfectly. It had so many great scenes like making soap in that derelict house, the first fight outside the bar (“You hit me in the ear?!” – which is also trotted out again in this book too) – there are too many to list. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to say anything bad about it, it’s so compelling and original! 

The second Fight Club should be called Cash-Grab Club – it’s Palahniuk cashing in on the book that made his career, especially seeing that the books he’s produced since have had less and less impact on anyone but the loyal few of his readership. He’s trying to be relevant by returning to the well but he’s got nothing. Nothing to say, nothing new to add – nothing new that’s worth adding, I should say – and no clue as to what to do with his characters. There aren’t any great scenes in Fight Club 2, no great characters, no great lines, just a retread of old favourites – fan-service and nothing more. It didn’t need to have the same impact as Fight Club but it could’ve been more fun than this and it wasn’t, it was instead a really disappointing, lazy load of crap. 

The first rule of Fight Club 2 is you don’t bother with it.
The second rule of Fight Club 2 is you wish Chuck Palahniuk hadn’t bothered with it - re-read the original instead. 
The third rule of Fight Club 2 is someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out, then they probably disregarded the first rule and read the book.

Fight Club 2

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