Based on the technological Twilight Zone-type series Black Mirror, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, directed by David Slade, brings the latest version of a choose-your-own-adventure film to punch the mainstream since 1985’s Clue and it’s multiple different endings. Starring Fionn Whitehead as Stefan Butler, the “film” tells the simple yet intricate tale of Stefan’s development of the game Bandersnatch, based off the fictional book of the same name; however, things go wrong in the most unexpected ways. What happens next is up to the viewer, through the interactive element of the “film.” Of which comes the question: is Black Mirror: Bandersnatch a proper film, or a theme park attraction/game?
Compared to 1985’s Clue, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is more technologically advanced in its format. The amount of effort put into the technology of the project is immense. Each choice flows from one clip to another, allowing each choice actually affect the film in small or big ways. Instead of having to travel to multiple theaters and hope you get the endings that actually fit into the overarching story that you perceive it to be, the whole film is available at the comfort of your home. However, one of the issues with this form of storytelling is the fact that there is no definite “ending”. Due to the set up of Netflix’s streaming service and the format of the interactivity of the “film”, when you get to one of the endings, it just asks if you want to go back to a previous point and never goes to the credits, making the film feel empty and an incomplete story. Obviously this tiny flaw can be fixed in an update to the service, but as the technology stands, it feels empty as a story.
However, looking at the story without the technology, each of the endings experienced are relatively interesting on their own. From experience, you could either get an mystical monster storyline, or an child corruption tale. Each of them are very interesting on their own. Relatively, the storyline that revolves around drugs, monsters, and fourth-wall breaks is by far the best one of the two main pathways. The actors are decent at best in the film, with Fionn Whitehead as the protagonist being a huge standout, with the rest of the cast being so-so at best.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’s overlying question emerges from this piece: Can this be considered a film, or interactive media? Sadly, it is the later option. In the grand scheme of things, a film should have a consistent theme/message throughout, but this “film” isn’t consistent in terms of the message and could easily change in a choice’s notice. The “film” has more in common with the 1991 Sega CD game Night Trap, than an actual film. However, that should not dismiss the overall quality of its attempt to bring interactive stories to the mainstream. Although not classifying as a film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is still an excellent experience that should be experienced for what it is, a game.