Review: 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch' is conceptually fun but struggles to engage

Dec 29, 2018
black mirror: bandersnatch netflix review

“Choose your own adventure” gimmicks have always been there in different mediums. It’s just that video games made the concept a novelty of their own. But even if we can say they are fun for the sake of experience, in terms of immersing oneself to the story, they just don’t click.

This is one of my gripes experiencing the very first ‘Black Mirror’ movie ‘Bandersnatch,’ dubbed by Netflix as an “interactive movie.” It should excite fans of the series, known for its twisted representation of technological dominance over humanity. In ‘Bandersnatch,’ technology is not the one who gets complete dominance, but the audience who watches it. 

black mirror: bandersnatch netflix review

It opens with a narration explaining the format: a black bar will emerge from the bottom with two (or more) choices. Depending on where you click, the story will shift per choice. The character we get to control is Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), who is pitching a game concept to a London-based game company. 

His video game is called “Bandersnatch,” based on a choose-your-own-adventure book by Jerome F. Davies. Davies was known to amputate her wife’s head due while making his book, went insane creating the different permutations in the story’s map. For Stefan, his obsession with his game that will be led to his eventual insanity isn’t something he created. But the destiny laid down for him by a group he is yet to discover.

black mirror: bandersnatch netflix review

‘Bandersnatch’ is the only ‘Black Mirror’ episode so far that knows it is a ‘Black Mirror’ episode. It is aware that its own story is dictated, and it goes to fun heights when we get to see Stefan go closer to meet his fate’s perpetrator. The audiences only have 10 seconds to choose what he gets to do, and it can be a great source of engagement over group viewings.

The choices go from simple everyday problems like deciding on what breakfast to eat, which band to listen until it gets more brutal with choosing whether you will murder someone or not. This is essentially a game of morality that could be interpreted as a game in which Netflix is the master of our game, mapping the movie for us. 

black mirror: bandersnatch netflix review

Naturally, it is conceptually fun. And in pure ‘Black Mirror’ fashion, has interesting philosophies to say with regards to media’s curation of content for us and reincarnated lives on alternate timelines. But I just struggle engaging myself on what I’m seeing. 

Stefan has interesting character arcs, and discovering multiple conclusions on his story allows us to learn more about him rather than being alternate bookends. Without spoiling, I only found one ending to be great; the others were fine. 

black mirror: bandersnatch netflix review

I would still recommend this to people who are yet to try its interactive video feature. While some of its scenes genuinely surprise, I still would rather opt for a viewing where the story is controlled by the one who makes it. 

'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch' is now streaming on Netflix.

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