This film is not for the indecisive. As 2018 comes to a close, I give you my last review for 2018, here’s my review of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
WARNING: This review may contain some SPOILERS, though essentially this review should be spoiler-free, as you’ll get tons of different stories and endings anyway.
Ever since I discovered Black Mirror early 2017, I instantly became a fan. The pilot episode left me absolutely shook to the core and right after, I started binge-watching each and every episode and season I could find. Some episodes were hit and miss, some I truly hated, but others I deeply loved. Their latest season is an example of what I’m talking about. There are episodes in the 5th season, like USS Callister, and Black Museum, which I absolutely raved about, and then there’s Arkangel or Metalhead, which I weren’t so fond of, and to tell you frankly, they were quite forgettable. This time, however, Black Mirror is taking us on a new journey. One where we, ourselves, are not just deeply involved in the story, but we’re actually in control of it.
Bandersnatch starts out with Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a video game creator who is set to pitch his new game idea to Tuckersoft, a budding video game company, aspiring to be “the Motown of computer games”. We start his day with him, he wakes up at 8:30 and heads downstairs to eat breakfast. Here, we are immediately presented with a choice: “Sugar Puffs” or “Frosties“? This decision may be miniscule to some, but these choices will actually range from cereal options and tastes in music, to how you’ll dispose of a dead body. All these choices you will make will matter, as they will define the story you’re about to see. It can get intense sometimes, but it’s all worth it.
With that being said, there are multiple arcs in the story, and in turn, multiple endings for the film. Some are truly entertaining (the meta Netflix endings are my favorites), while others will leave you devastated (the train ending is quite bittersweet), and occasionally, you’ll find yourself looping back to your last choice or from the very start of the film. It adds a new dimension to your standard Netflix fare, where you are actually in control of what happens in the story. It might be gimmicky for some, but for me at least, it was pretty enjoyable.
The film will play with your ability to make decisions quickly, as they give you only about 10 seconds to choose an option, and at the same time, it’ll toy with your emotions and make you rethink if your moral compass is broken or not. It might not have the same effect on everyone, as I’ve heard lots of people saying that it was a bit dull and boring, but I thought otherwise. I guess it also depends on the patience of the viewer, as at times you’ll just be going on loops if you keep making the wrong decisions.
Netflix states that the film is an hour and a half, but this definitely isn’t true for most people. If you stick with the first ending and don’t try to get the others, I guess you could say it is about an hour and a half, but for sure most people would explore all the possible options they could try, or at leat until they get tired of it. In my own experience, I was able to get all the main endings in about 3-4 hours, and still spent the next day exploring all the arcs and storylines that the film offered, even though they usually end the same way (I think I got 1 constant ending in about 10 different arcs/storylines). It’s one of the things that makes this film innovative: every time you come back to it, you’d always get a different film. It’s something that would still feel fresh, even after watching it 10 times or more. If this is the future of online streaming entertainment – and surely others would quickly follow suit – then I’m down for it.
Let’s talk acting. Fionn Whitehead was amazing as Stefan, the main character who will be under your control the whole time. He brought just the right amount of crazy to this character, and he still managed to make me root for him, even though I’ve made a lot of pretty bad decisions for him, which ultimately lead him to grave consequences. Will Poulter delivers a psychedelic performance as the famed game developer Colin Ritman, and while most of the attention will be on Stefan, he still made his mark in the film.
On the technical side, it’s pretty much your standard Black Mirror fare. There’s nothing really new in terms of how they filmed everything, the only difference is on how the story will go, which again, will depend on you, the viewer. There are a lot of easter eggs in here, as well. There are references from previous episodes like White Bear, Nosedive, Metalhead, and many more, which will be fun to discover for Black Mirror fans like me.
I guess the only thing missing here is an actual conclusive ending. All the endings here feel lacking, and you end up with a lot of questions unanswered even if you’ve watched and played for hours and hours already. It doesn’t really take away from the experience, but it still would’ve been nice to have even just one ending that answers everything. Though this really isn’t surprising considering a lot of other Black Mirror episodes end the same way — with a lot of questions unanswered. I guess it’s one of the appeals of the show to me, how it still shrouds your mind with mystery instead of each episode having a very definitive ending.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is proof that interactive films are not just a gimmick. They can be an innovative way to tell a story (or in this case, multiple stories) while giving us something fresh and new at the same time. The story itself isn’t new, especially when talking about Black Mirror, but it’s still a great experience. While it’s not entirely groundbreaking, it’s a step in the right direction. As the dude on the telly here in Bandersnatch would say, “I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.”