“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is a game-changer for streaming entertainment. Coming from Netflix’s popular futuristic anthology series, “Black Mirror,” the film is the series’ most ambitious production putting viewers in control.
“Bandersnatch” shouldn’t be a viewer’s first foray into “Black Mirror;” the series is known for its contemplative, futuristic stories. Episodes such as “Arkangel” (season four) and the iconic “San Junipero” (season three) show how new technology can warp common life experiences. Viewers expecting radical innovations in “Bandersnatch” might be disappointed because the only futuristic element is the film’s interactivity.
However, this isn’t a dealbreaker.
“Bandersnatch” might not be monumental for “Black Mirror” as a whole, but it’s a step forward in the future of interactive storytelling and entertainment. Creating an engaging, multi-faceted story like “Bandersnatch” requires extensive planning, editing and lots of flow charts, according to a featurette about the movie.
“There were points where in working stuff out, it got to like trying to do a Rubik’s Cube in your head,” “Black Mirror” creator, writer and producer Charlie Brooker said in the video.
For viewers, “Bandersnatch” shakes up the act of watching a show itself. Since Netflix automatically plays shows one after another, viewers can watch hours of entertainment with a single click, getting lost in a series.
“Bandersnatch” isn’t for the passive viewer.
It’s the summer of 1984, young programmer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is invited to work on a choose-your-own-adventure game for the video game company, Tuckersoft.
Stefan’s fate is in the hands of viewers as they use their remote or mouse to click their way through the choose-your-own-adventure story. Viewers start with mundane choices choosing what cereal Stefan has and what music he listens to.
The first important choice comes when Stefan is offered the opportunity to work for Tuckersoft. Viewers can either accept or refuse the offer.
Although this is a choose-your-own-adventure experience, viewers are essentially forced to refuse the offer if they want to experience the full movie. Accepting the offer leads to video game developer Colin Ritman (Will Poulter) saying “Sorry mate; wrong path,” and the subsequent scenes give the viewer another chance to refuse.
Refusing the offer opens up the plot and its many paths. Stefan develops the video game at home, and viewers learn about his troubled childhood. Most of Stefan’s troubles stem from his mother’s death when he was young.
As his deadline looms, Stefan’s mental state deteriorates, and he feels he’s not in control of his life.
This leads to the most pivotal choices determining the game’s success and Stefan’s fate.
Netflix advertises the film’s runtime at 90 minutes, but viewers can easily spend hours replaying scenarios and uncovering around five main endings. Viewers get several chances to make split-second decisions throughout the film. The early, seemingly pointless choices quickly escalate to ones such as “bury body” or “chop up body.”
No matter what viewers choose, they’re reminded of their control over Stefan through existential conversations and small details throughout the film.
Fans of the series will also enjoy seeing subtle callbacks and easter eggs to previous “Black Mirror” episodes. Video games at Tuckersoft have names recalling previous “Black Mirror” episodes, and the glyph from the season two episode “White Bear” shows up in multiple paths.
“Bandersnatch” marks a turning point for entertainment. It’s proven that interesting stories can be told on an interactive platform, and other film companies have the opportunity to follow its lead.
“Bandersnatch” is available to watch on Netflix.