On 28 December 2018, Netflix released the interactive psychological thriller, Bandersnatch. Released as a film accompaniment to the award winning series Black Mirror, the focus of Bandersnatch carries the same warning that we’ve come to know and love from episodes; the potential dangers of the increasing advancement of technology.
Set in 1984, (a nod to George Orwell’s novel of the same name) we follow Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), a young man in the process of developing a choose-your-own-adventure game, based off of his favourite novel Bandersnatch. In the film, the viewer controls the paths that Stefan takes, with some choices ending in death for the character, or being pushed back to the beginning to pick a choice again. There are over 200 minutes of footage available for the viewer in total; however these are not all accessible in one playthrough, requiring multiple playthroughs in order to ‘unlock’ all endings. In the end, the viewer can reveal themselves to Stefan, even telling him that they are observing him through Netflix.
Having followed Black Mirror since the release of its second series on Channel 4, I was surprised to see that a feature-length film had been released. However, an interactive film where the viewer controls the protagonist is probably the most Black Mirror thing I’ve ever heard, so obviously I put it on straight away.
Now, the thing that I’ve always loved most about Black Mirror is that while the episodes and storylines are entirely fictional, with the rate that technology is advancing it’s not entirely impossible that the things that happen in these episodes COULD happen. In 2016, Sony revealed they’ve began developing contact lenses that can record, store, and play back footage, an idea seen in Series 1 Episode 3: Entire History of You. Series 3 Episode 1: Nosedive could also soon be reality, with China introducing their social credit rating system in 2020, a system that will rate citizens out of 800 based on choices they make in day to day life. So for example, smoking in non-smoking areas or buying violent computer games will lower your rating. Lower ratings mean less job opportunities and, bizarrely, lower internet speeds.
My point is, with the speed that technology is advancing, watching Black Mirror hits home because you know that we’re not that far off of what is in those episodes. But sadly, with Bandersnatch I just didn’t get that feeling. While the plot itself was good, it got boring. Having to go back and repeat choices or scenes got tedious and after an hour, I just wanted it to hurry up and finish. And I felt awful about it because I have always loved Black Mirror. However, I cannot fault the acting whatsoever, Fionn Whitehead and Will Poulter certainly played their roles brilliantly, and the concept was interesting. But in the end, it didn’t live up to the expectations that I have for Black Mirror after four brilliant seasons.
Bring on Series 5!
(no interactive episodes please)