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STREAMING VIDEO REVIEW: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (Netflix)

In 1984, a young programmer begins to question reality as he works to adapt a fantasy novel into a video game.

 

 

Since its Channel 4 debut in 2011, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has become an international success under the wing of Netflix, with every episode providing innovative and controversial content for its loyal audience. Brooker’s latest baby, ‘Bandersnatch’, has been highly anticipated for a long time due to the unusual concept of giving the power of choice to the viewer. The idea that we, the viewer, can influence the outcome of a programme is not a new one; the saturated market of reality TV competitions and talent shows beg us to call and text for your favourite contestant by a public majority. But how can it be possible to have a feature length drama influenced by just you? How can Netflix take a feature only seen in video games and DVD bonus features? Like many, I was desperate to find out.

 

Before touching on the content, it has to be said the concept of interactivity has opened a window of opportunity to streaming services that could take the format and run with it in so many genres. For that, the creators should be commended for pushing boundaries and taking the linear out of television. At release it was widely reported that the decisions could affect the length of the production from between a 40 minute show to a full length, 90 minute film. But let’s get to the content.

 

 

Set in the early 80’s, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is a talented young programmer who is hired by Tuckersoft boss Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhery) to adapt ‘Bandersnatch’, a choose-your-own-adventure book into a video game to dominate Christmas sales. Despite being under the same roof as famous game creator Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), Stefan rejects any help with programming his masterpiece (or rather, you reject any help) At this point I become suspicious, as after choosing to take help, the story took me to a disappointing rating by a gaming critic on TV, which led me back to the Tuckersoft office with the same choices to accept or reject help.

 

Stefan imprisons himself in his room behind a computer, the walls plastered in scribbly paper. As he takes the complex paths of Bandersnatch and brings it to life, we learn that his irate yet vacant presence is key to the storyline. As he struggles to overcome the difficulties of his glitchy software, he is riddled with guilt for his mother’s passing in a train crash many years prior. His reluctance to leave the house without his toy rabbit delayed his mother’s train journey, hence Stefan’s sense of responsibility for her demise. Stefan attends therapy sessions with Dr R Haynes (Alice Lowe) which you, of course, decide the frequency of the visits.

 

 

The decisions you make from start to finish become more gruesome and at times you wonder how can there be a choice. How am I meant to know if Stefan should jump from Colin’s balcony or whether Colin should do the honor? Is chopping up a body a better idea than burying one? However, each decision seemed less and less impactful as I progressed through the story. Dead-end after dead-end left me feeling deflated by the show and the option to go to the credits became more and more tempting after every wrong decision. If interactive television becomes a more frequent part of streaming services, giving people a choice when there is actually only one viable choice isn’t going to work every time.

 

 

I can be sympathetic to the widely publicised struggles that production faced. There is no denying that creating a nonlinear show must have been a massive uptaking, so it is understandable that delays happen; some of the greatest films are made later than planned, but audiences quickly forgive and forget if the delay is justified. I believe that it would have been worth the wait if Bandersnatch took a bit longer to make. Black Mirror fans may have high expectations, but as I said before, they’re loyal.

 

 

Despite all of the negatives, It’s worth watching for the experience of picking the path for Stefan (despite the choices being…a choice). It’s worth watching for Will Poulter, who in my eyes was the highlight of Bandersnatch, with his confident yet creepy performance. He’s completely underused in the role. Furthermore, the show/film is very polished in true Black Mirror style and the transition between choices in smooth, but the pathways need more than it offers.

 

 

Will I rewatch Bandersnatch? Not yet. I don’t think there’s any satisfaction in playing it over and over to find every outcome at once. Instead, I think coming back to this in the future will bring a greater anticipation for a new outcome that resembles the same feeling of watching it all for the first time. The future of television is definitely here, but it’s got a lot of work to do.

 

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is available to watch (play?!?) on Netflix now!

 

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Get’s an chosen adventure score of 7 out of 10

~Gemma


January 18th, 2019 by Gemma
This entry was posted on Friday, January 18th, 2019 at 6:07 pm and is filed under General, Movie Review, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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