Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

Directed by David Slade

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So I’ve never experienced anything quite like that.  I guess a “choose your own adventure” concept is just like a video game, so the novelty might not be as strong with others, but I had a f*ckin’ good time ‘playing’ this movie with a few friends.  It’s definitely a good communal experience, one that might feel a bit of a letdown should you undertake it alone.

The story here involves a game developer who wants to make a “choose your own adventure” game and then finds himself inside of one.  At some point Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) starts talking to the viewer, realizing that he’s no longer in control of his own life.  Decisions as small as what cereal to eat are left up to the viewer, but it’s not until you’re given the option to have Stefan kill his own father that he’s clued into the premise of the show.

That meta quality even goes so far as to have the show reference Netflix itself.  It’s one of a few choices you can make which lead to a brief detour that eventually goes nowhere.  Or, it does, but it leads to a false ending of sorts and returns you back from whence you came.

You’ll probably find yourself doing that a few times, rewinding and replaying the same moment, only this time making the ‘correct’ choice.

I’m not sure how many hours of footage there are here (I heard around five), but it took us about 90 minutes to finish, so exactly the length of an ordinary feature film.  The premise does seem to distract a little bit from the story, which I’ve still hardly discussed, but I found the ending surprisingly moving and dark, as most Black Mirror episodes were.  It makes great use of a Laurie Anderson song (“O Superman”) that I keep getting stuck in my head.

So Stefan lives with his father.  His mother died when he was a young boy because the train she was on derailed.  As Stefan goes deeper into the idea of free will and a sort of game-ification of life, he will find that he’s able to interact with his memories and even alter them, just as we are able to do with his story onscreen.

In the end, he does alter the past and in the process gets a new chance at a life with his mother, and I suppose that’s about it.

But who cares!  This is an experience more than a story, and I think it all connects thematically enough to make you think.  Or just to think enough, because after all this is more about entertainment than anything else.

So Bandersnatch was pretty great and certainly novel.  No matter what the quality of the ‘movie’ may be, I found myself flabbergasted on multiple occasions while playing along.  It’s certainly a new experience that I can’t quite compare to anything else, and at the very least it’s damn impressive.

Up Next: The Merchant of Four Seasons (1972), Groundhog Day (1993), Aquaman (2018)

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