In many ways, Tyler Durden is the more violent, better-looking Henry David Thoreau of our time. He taught us to live simpler lives, to shed the burden of material possessions, and to purify ourselves by getting beaten to a pulp by our fellow man. If living by his code means looking like that, then maybe he's onto something. Brad Pitt's portrayal of Tyler Durden in 1999's Fight Club inspired guys everywhere to throw out their khakis, take up boxing, and tap into their inner men. Tyler's wisdom, however, is universal, and we can all benefit from knowing that we are not special. Here are the best nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Durden.
You're Not Your F*****g Khakis
One of Tyler's main mottos is "The things you own end up owning you." He refuses to be a slave to material possessions, which is evident in the barely standing house he squats in. When the narrator laments that his apartment has blown up, and along with it his Ikea furniture and a wardrobe that was becoming quite respectable, Tyler tells him to forget about his sofa units. "I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let's evolve." Throughout the movie, Tyler reminds the narrator, as well as the audience, that we are not how much money we have, the job we do, or any other material manifestation of ourselves.
Lesson: It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
Prove You're Alive
Tyler holds a gun to a convenience store clerk's head and asks him what his dream job would be. When the man answers, trembling, "veterinarian," Tyler tells him that if he isn't on his way to becoming a vet in six weeks, he'll hunt him down and kill him, literally forcing the guy to improve his life. When the narrator can't understand what scaring the piss out of someone accomplished, Tyler says, "Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted. " Tyler even goes so far as to crash the car that he's driving, so that he and his passengers have a "near-life experience."
Lesson: Sometimes you need to feel death in order to be alive.
Sacrifice For the Greater Good
When Tyler starts his Project Mayhem initiative, he recruits an army of men to organize and implement acts of anarchy. Throughout their training, he reminds them that they are not individuals, they are all just cogs in a machine. "Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else." When one of the members gets shot and killed during their mission to blow up a piece of public art while simultaneously destroying a mass coffee chain, Tyler shrugs it off like it's an occupational hazard.
Lesson: You wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.
Fighting Is the Answer
Tyler's creation of Fight Club becomes a kind of therapy for men from all walks of life. In fact, fighting replaces the narrator's addiction to group therapy. The movie shows that fighting, and even just getting beaten up, can be a means to an end, as Tyler gets bloodied up in order to keep the space for the club and the narrator fights himself to frame his boss and quit his job with pay. Each week, more and more men show up to Fight Club to beat the living crap out of each other, and even though they leave with fewer teeth and black eyes, they also leave with a renewed sense of purpose and self. Like Tyler says, you don't want to die without any scars.
Lesson: You can't completely know yourself unless you've been in a fight.
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.