Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is Netflix’s interactive film, which follows the story of Stefan Butler, a budding game developer in the 1980s, as he attempts to build a choose-your-own-adventure game named Bandersnatch. There are a multitude of endings, depending on the viewer’s choices.
Bandersnatch, though it feels like it could be called a video game, is most certainly not one. The interactivity was, for the most part, poorly blended with the rest of the film, resulting in stilted silences punctuated by forced character dialogue while you make your choice.
Although Bandersnatch is certainly a novel idea, one that could easily spawn a new genre, it didn’t quite work here, due to the jarring transitions, and the not-quite-up-to-scratch acting. This, plus the two extremely obvious self-inserts by Netflix, give the otherwise serious film a slightly jokish undertone.
There are a few notable instances of self-references within Bandersnatch’s folds. For example, when Stefan is questioning reality, wondering who is there, the viewer can choose to respond ‘Netflix.’ This leads to an ending where his therapist’s room turns into a movie set, finalizing his break from reality. Additionally, the ‘branching path’ symbol, which looks like a digitized wishbone, appears first in another Black Mirror episode, White Bear. Finally, you have a couple of fictional video games which have similar titles to other Black Mirror episodes: Nohzdyve for the episode Nosedive, and Metl Hedd for Metalhead.
The public’s reaction to Bandersnatch was, by all accounts, good. While some criticized it as not quite fitting in to the rest of the franchise, due to it’s interactive elements, most thought it contained the necessary ‘tech horror’ for a Black Mirror episode.
Bandersnatch features several recognizable actors, the most notable being Fionn Whitehead, who plays main character Stefan Butler, and Will Poulter as Colin Ritman. Following Bandersnatch’s release, and some of the more negative comments towards the actor, Poulter stated that he would “take a step back” from Twitter, going on to say that he has struggled with the delicate balance of positive and negative engagements on social media, before finishing with this: “I don’t want to appear unappreciative of all the amazing support I have received online for which I am genuinely so grateful, nor do I want my disengagement with social media to be at the expense of any of the organisations I am lucky to work with.”
I won’t lie: I, personally, did not like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. I’m not a fan of the gimmicky interactive nature of it, and and some of the acting, in my mind, did not hold up to par, especially given that two of the main actors have shown that they are capable of doing much better. I will say, however, that it may be still a great watch, especially for recurring fans of Black Mirror.