Project Mayhem evolves out of, and eventually replaces Fight Club, starting out as a “homework assignment” given out to members by Tyler Durden. As Fight Club attains a nationwide presence, Tyler uses it to spread his anti-consumerist ideas, devising increasingly elaborate pranks on corporate America. He eventually gathers the most devoted Fight Club members and forms Project Mayhem: a cult-like organization that trains itself as an army to bring down modern civilization.
Fight Club (1999).
In this darkly comic drama, Edward Norton (“Narrator”) stars as a depressed young man who has become a small cog in the world of big business. He doesn’t like his work and gets no sense of reward from it, attempting instead to drown his sorrows by putting together the “perfect” apartment. One day on a business flight, he discovers Tyler Durden, a charming iconoclast who sells soap. Tyler doesn’t put much stock in the materialistic world, and he believes that one can learn a great deal through pain, misfortune, and chaos. Tyler cheerfully challenges his new friend to a fight. Our Narrator finds that bare-knuckle brawling makes him feel more alive than he has in years, and soon the two become friends and roommates, meeting informally to fight once a week. As more men join in, the “fight club” becomes an underground sensation, even though it’s a closely guarded secret among the participants. Fight Club is a world of men, for men, and by men. It is also a world of night. Norton eventually leaves his “day job,” but only after extorting a full salary and a supply of airplane tickets, because he hit himself in his boss’ office to make it appear as though his boss had assaulted him.
In the meantime, fight clubs have sprung up all over the country. Out of them Tyler starts “Project Mayhem,” a revolutionary organization that thrives on petty vandalistic acts that eventually mutate into terrorist attacks against major corporations and big business. While fight club is purely voluntary, Project Mayhem serves as a mechanism for Tyler to impose his philosophy on an unwilling and narrow minded society. Project Mayhem’s methods are funny at first, like the bumper stickers they paste on unwitting cars: “I Drive Better When I’m Drunk”, “Make Mine Veal”, “Drunk Drivers Against Mothers” and “Recycle All the Animals”. Those are the work of the Mischief Committee. But eventually, mere mischief isn’t good enough. At that point, they have to kick it into high gear, killing government officials and blowing up high rises. And somewhere along Tyler’s path to freedom, people start to die.
Project Mayhem becomes such a threat to society that the police chief organizes a meeting to stop its ascent. The police chief’s efforts are thwarted when Fight Club members kidnap him, pin him down on the ground in a hotel bathroom, and threaten him with castration. Throughout all this, Norton remains completely convinced that he personally is just a passive participant and that Tyler Durden is the brains beyond the secret society — until Fight Club members in other cities salute Norton as their leader. Norton finally grows suspicious and starts to retrace his tracks by traveling to those seedling Fight Club cities and asking Fight Club followers who he is. All insist that it is he who started Fight Club and that it was he who flew to other cities to start new chapters.
Eventually, Norton realizes that Tyler Durden does not really exist but is not completely convinced until he sees that Durden is not hit by a bullet from a gun he fires. The truth is now known to Norton, but it is too late. He, and he alone, is the leader and founder of Fight Club. But Project Mayhem has become independent of Fight Club and is completely out of control. Perfectly orchestrated plans to blow up buildings throughout the city are in place. Norton tries to stop the destruction, but his own men stop him. They hold him down and try to castrate him, informing him that he himself instructed them to do just that, if ever he tried to interfere with the functioning of Fight Club.
All the violence and death caused by Project Mayhem points toward one goal: “A near-life experience”.