The world of the adventure game is one that is frequently explored. Many of the games released nowadays involve the player to choose exactly how their character lives their computer-generated life: what they wear, what they eat and what choices they make, are all in the hands of the gamer.
However, it’s less likely to be seen within the medium of the movie. With nearly all films ever, it’s like reading a book: you are prepared just to accept what happens. But what would happen if the fate of the protagonist was your decision?
That is the approach that genius writer Charlie Brooker has taken with his newest creation for Netflix, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Derived from the same dark, twisted series, Bandersnatch is one of the first times that the viewer has been able to decide what they want to watch. It follows Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), an awkward and socially inept lad who has created a game based on the adventure book, Bandersnatch. Combined with the eerily dark story surrounding the book and Stefan’s spiral into madness, Bandersnatch becomes less of a game and more of a reality for him.
It is easy to see how this kind of format could get confusing quite quickly. Granted, it does take a while to work through every possible outcome – some selections show you what would happen (usually, the wrong ones), and then take you back to choose again. Whereas others loop around each other and cause certain outcomes to be revealed, which is what takes the most time to figure out. Overall, it can be said that this movie isn’t just something you can stick on in the background – it requires total and complete concentration. A kid’s life hangs in the balance, after all.
As far as the premise goes, it’s brilliant. It’s innovative, slick and unexpected, all the while being completely unsurprising. It’s what the public have now come to expect from the Black Mirror series, but this time, it’s you pulling the strings, instead of something equally as unnerving. Because of this, it makes the whole experience feel a bit more real: it’s always been an aim for directors to fully immerse the audience in their creation. You don’t really get much more immersed than this.
Gimmicks aside, Bandersnatch has a solid story. It’s dark, funny and quite trippy at times, but in the true spirit of Black Mirror, it makes you question society as you know it. Without giving too much away, it points the mirror right back at the watcher, making the most beneficial path for Stefan also the most entertaining and mentally damaging for him. It points a black mirror right back at the audience and shows us how damaging expectation can be.
As well as this, the acting is top notch. With each character perfectly cast, it really does emphasise the feeling that you are intruding on someone’s life. Stefan is played with a constantly increasing level of paranoia and hypomania, with his mind slowly being clouded by all of the decisions an unknown force is making for him. He’s sheepish, determined and a little bit mental.
The supporting cast is just as strong. Will Poulter’s Colin is a driving force behind the madness, pushing Stefan to the brink of his mind’s capacity. He’s driven to being both a tormentor and a friend, with an oddly lackadaisical approach to anything that affects his life. Stefan’s father (Craig Parkinson) is equally as influential on Stefan’s life. He just wants the best for his son, but is he really doing it in the best way? Probably not, as the movie gives you several options in which to really cause him some pain.
Despite just how well thought out the story is, it’s overshadowed by the gimmick of it being a choose your own adventure story. It should be a tale focussing on regret, madness and the genuine ferocity of the human mind. Instead, it starts off well but drives the viewer to madness as they frantically try to select various options that all turn out in the best possible way for the doolally lead. It’s strangely poetic in its downfalls, but that doesn’t mean that they are in any way justifiable.
If you fancy watching a thought-provoking movie and having a fun experience at the same time, this is the watch for you. However, set aside at least two hours to explore every outcome – as much as it is a personal choice, it’s so cool to be able to see all of the possible things that could happen. In the boring greyness of January, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a surefire way to entertain yourself for an afternoon.
Also, one last thing – Sugar Puffs or Frosties?
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2