The 1999 film began streaming last month on Tencent Video in China, albeit with a censored ending featuring Narrator (Edward Norton) not killing his split personality Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and blowing up a city skyline with love interest Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) by his side.
The iconic explosion sequence was removed, and instead a caption appeared onscreen: “Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding,” the title card reads. “After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”
Per The Hollywood Reporter, Tencent Video restored 11 out of the 12 minutes it originally cut from the film’s climax two weeks later. (The missing minute includes a nude sex scene between Pitt and Bonham Carter’s characters; however, now the iconic explosion sequence remains in full.)
So, how did this all happen?
“Here’s what we know,” Fincher told Empire magazine on February 14. “A company licensed the film from New Regency to show it in China, with a boilerplate [contract]: ‘You have to understand cuts may be made for censhorship purposes.’ No one said, ‘If we don’t like the ending, can we change it?’ So there’s now a discussion being had as to what ‘trims’ means.”
Fincher added, “If you don’t like this story, why would you license this movie? It makes no sense to me when people go, ‘I think it would be good for our service if we had your title on it…we just want it to be a different movie.’ The fucking movie is 20 years old. It’s not like it had a reputation for being super cuddly.”
Yet, the three-time Oscar nominee admitted the censored ending more closely mirrors author Chuck Palahniuk‘s original ending for the novel.
“It’s funny to me that the people who wrote the Band-Aid [ending] in China must have read the book, because it adheres pretty closely,” Fincher said.
Palahniuk previously told TMZ that the new, edited ending was an almost identical adaptation. In the novel, Tyler’s bombs actually malfunctioned, and he ended up shooting himself before waking up in a mental hospital.
“The irony is that the way the Chinese have changed it is they’ve aligned the ending almost exactly with the ending of the book, as opposed to Fincher’s ending, which was the more spectacular visual ending,” Palahniuk said. “So in a way, the Chinese brought the movie back to the book a little bit.”
As they say, the first rule of Fight Club is to read “Fight Club.”