Netflix ‘Black Mirror’ movie offers viewers the chance to choose their own adventure
A couple of weeks ago, I half-jokingly pitched a review of Netflix's “Black Mirror” movie, “Bandersnatch,” to my editor. After all, what could be more fun and challenging than reviewing a movie where few people would actually even see the exact same movie?
In case you missed it, “Bandersnatch” is a choose-your-own-adventure movie, and I sure loved those books as a kid. What a fun way to teach a child that their decisions can lead to death!
And with this attached to the generally brilliant writing of “Black Mirror,” I presumed (correctly) this would be more than a gimmick.
Set in 1984, because obviously, “Bandersnatch” follows an aspiring British video game creator named Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead of “Dunkirk”).
Butler lives with his father (Craig Parkinson) and has a vision to create a video game based on an obscure and massive choose-your-own-adventure novel.
He's pitched the idea to a video game company that aims to crank out hits on the way to becoming the Motown of the industry, but Butler's obsession with executing the game becomes madness.
Spoiler alert: What happens is (kind of) up to you.
Throughout the film, viewers are prompted to make A/B choices, some mundane, some quite consequential. These choices determine the path of the narrative.
Writer Charlie Brooker lays out a delightfully meta labyrinth in “Bandersnatch” … and any fan of “Black Mirror” would not be surprised to learn that things turn dark and existential.
But there's also a lot of black comedy as Brooker playfully messes with the viewer in an exploration of the very concept of free will.
Since this kind of interactive film could only exist on a platform like Netflix, there's certainly a novelty to it, with different endings to explore (though you'll experience several “endings” in one viewing).
And there's also about five-and-a-half hours of possible footage that will make up a movie that runs at a more typical feature length. Since Netflix is in constant need of more content (and leaning into more and more original), this presents a conundrum.
“Bandersnatch” is an ambitious undertaking for something viewers will chew threw in an evening. You may re-watch to explore the variations, but don't expect many more of these to be made.
With how widely seen the preposterous and movie-of-the-week bad “Bird Box” has been, viewers should take a second to appreciate the talent that went into this one.
Also, please watch “Roma.” Let's make Netflix support good original film, OK?