The interactive Black Mirror Episode that Shook the World: Bandersnatch
Updated: Jan 17, 2019
A “Bandersnatch” is a fierce mythical creature with sharped teeth, immune to bribery and capable of moving very fast.
BANDERSNATCH is an interactive Black Mirror episode that premiered on Netflix recently on 28 Dec 2018. It basically follows the popular 80’s Choose Your Own Adventure books format where it allows viewers to select narrative options throughout the movie that will take the viewers to different paths.
This ground-breaking episode has been the talk of the Internet with reviewers and viewers dissecting it and providing elaborated flowcharts with both spoiler-free and spoiler-filled endings. Just google or YouTube it and you’ll see tonnes of reactions on this “Christmas special”.
So, is Bandersnatch a gift that keeps on giving or is it overhyped and overrated?
I once read somewhere that the purpose of art is to stop us in our tracks and provoke us to think. And to me, films are the highest form of art. It raises awareness of certain subjects and more importantly, it entertains us that only a film can.
Bandersnatch checks those boxes.
Just like all its episodes, Black Mirror’s premise has always been about the dystopian future where a piece of technology brings out the worst in its main character(s).
Why I find this episode interesting is because at get go, we are lured into the Black Mirror universe with a seemingly harmless and simple choice to make; selecting which box of cereals the protagonist should consume. However, as the narrative unfolds, we are forced to make tougher and more difficult choices which would have eternal consequences to its characters. Sounds like every other episode of Black Mirror, eh?
Just that this time, “we” the viewers are now the main character and Netflix is that piece of tech. Clever.
That said, I have also discovered that films are a form of therapy.
Some movies just heal us at an emotional level where we would have a good cry or it would remind us of an unfinished business that needs closure. Those movies are powerful because we are putting our faith in the writers, directors and actors, allowing the story to unfold without our intervention and allowing it to wash over us.
And there lies the constraint of Bandersnatch with its interactivity function. If I wanted to be in control of my destiny, I would have gone and play a game say Grand Theft Auto. (To be fair, series creator Charlie Brooker has clarified that Bandersnatch is not meant to be a computer game.)
But because of the need to interact with the story in order to take it forward, I was more carried away by the choices I had to make than by the flow of the story itself. And because how it is structured, I would be brought back to the same sequence again and again and after a while, it started to become a little repetitive.
As a result, I didn’t care much about its characters as it took away the pleasure of just watching a story unfold by itself.
Perhaps, such a format would work better for light and entertaining type of content such as a rowdy roadtrip series (think The Hangover) where viewers are asked to choose between watching the protagonists speed away from a gang or fight the gang, but it’s more difficult to work on a thought-provoking series like Black Mirror.
In conclusion, I applaud the ambition and the risk the creators took. The performances are good especially from Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk) and Will Poulter (The Maze Runner) and the attention to details are commendable. But it just didn’t punch me in the gut like how the other Black Mirrors episodes did.
Overall, I would rate this movie a 7/10.