Set in 1984, a geeky teenager sets out to turn a science-fiction book into a global computer game that presents the player with a series of choices.
Without question, Netflix’s Black Mirror is one of the most unique shows on television today. The distinct cross between technology and humanity is one like never seen before…and it is extremely terrifying. From graphic nail biting episodes such as “Playtest” to story driven plots that seems just too real such as “Nosedive”; the viewer is always in for a high sped roller coaster that demands attention.
Bandersnatch is no exception.
Upon the first scene, the atmosphere is eerie and dark. It is not a horror film, nor is it a gore show; but it is uncomfortable. Stefan is the main character, and one can immediately note that he is not mentally stable. He fidgets around, rarely eats, and ignores his father, and insists on not going to therapy; all to complete his newest video game creation, Bandersnatch. Comparatively, there are not many characters in this film, which I liked. It helped focus on the main premise writer Charlie Brook and director David Slade, wants you to see, and that is nothing at all; he just wants your attention. Everyone is great in this film. Black Mirror is known for presenting a casts list full of newcomers and I am all for it because the performances never disappoints. Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk) as Stefan Butler gives us colorful character development, especially being that he had to film five different outcomes. Craig Parkinson as the father, Alice Lowe as the therapist and Asim Chaudhry as the video game company manager are all fantastic but the real gem here is Will Poulter as the conniving pothead video game legend. With no spoilers, he has a scene alongside Fionn that is rather hallucinogenic, yet cinematic gold. I am so glad that he took on a character completely different from his type because everything else he stars in is annoying.
Now the experience. Netflix took a risk pioneering the first interactive adult film on television ever. Other entities include kid titles such as “Puss in Boots:Trapped in an Epic Tale”, but never has there been a film where viewers can choose specific paths for characters that affects the film entirely, and it is pretty impressive. The interaction is smooth, well thought out, and admiringly entertaining. Viewers have five different outcomes, and don’t think the ending is the only thing altered. Once again, without spoilers, once a path is chosen, it is over, so choose wisely or you may revisit some familiar places. The viewer who chooses all “correct” paths can finish the film in 40 minutes, as opposed to the viewer who unwillingly visits all paths that will experience a run-time of 90 minutes. Conversely, while the interaction was effective, for future interactive films, I suggest fewer choices. As a user who viewed all outcomes (purposely of course), I sometimes found the interactions a bit gimmicky and unfortunately, a distraction. However, to make up for the confusion, if you do not choose a path, one will be chosen for you, which somehow makes the film never ending.
Nonetheless, the magic of video games counter the idea of reality signifying the more you play, the more you are emotionally invested. Coupled with previous Black Mirror episodes, it is a screaming alarm clocking telling you to wake up; and I’m sure after this experience, we are all listening. There are not many happy endings in Bandersnatch, but there is a celebration. To commemorate a new beginning for all interactive films to come.
Netflix, I'm ready for the next one.