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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) Movie Poster
USA / UK  •    •  90m  •    •  Directed by: David Slade.  •  Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Craig Parkinson, Alice Lowe, Asim Chaudhry, Will Poulter, Tallulah Haddon, Catriona Knox, Paul Bradley, Jonathan Aris, A.J. Houghton, Fleur Keith, Laura Evelyn, Alan Asaad.  •  Music by: Brian Reitzell.
     A young programmer starts to question reality when he adapts a mad writer's fantasy novel into a video game.


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I consider "Black Mirror" to be the best anthology series since Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone". That's how highly I regard the show. Unfortunately, when it comes to the choose-your-own-adventure interactive "Bandersnatch", I left the experience wishing a "normal" episode or film had been released instead of this experiment.

For a basic plot summary, "Bandersnatch" tells the story of Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a computer programmer in the 1980s who is working on a path-choosing game at the same company as his idol (and fellow master programmer) Colin (Will Poulter). While creating the game, Stefan becomes convinced that someone else is controlling his actions, much like the characters he himself is creating.

With such a unique concept as "Bandersnatch"--letting the viewer choose certain decisions for the characters--both the plot and convention must be evaluated. In this case, however, it is difficult to untangle one from the other, as the filmmakers intentionally break the fourth wall on numerous occasions. In other words, it is impossible to separate "the plot" from "the choices".

Though there were a few things that "Bandersnatch" did which intrigued me (mostly located in the first 20-30 minutes of the experience, the poor star rating ultimately came down to this for me: with every "wrong" ending I took--thus having to go back and try again--I felt a bit more removed from the overall story and thus my stake in the characters. To be honest, it is almost the exact same emotion I experienced while reading choose-your-own-adventure books as a child. They were fun for awhile, but after a time I became fatigued by the back-and-forth and wanted to get back to more traditional storytelling techniques.

This is to say nothing that with every back-track, I felt like I was continually being taken out of the plot and having to remember what was happening. This worked for about the first half hour or so, but after that it got really messy for my viewing experience.

So, while I have to give "Black Mirror" at least some credit for putting a new idea out there for people to experiment with, at the end of the day I wished I would have had more of their standard episodes instead. To be completely honest, I don't think that this type of choice-based content watching will ever be more than a fad or gimmick, although of course that remains to be seen.

For this viewer, however, I prefer to be able to relax and enjoy one story carefully crafted by a team of filmmakers. Adding in audience participation just makes things really, really messy when all is said and done.

Review by zkonedog from the Internet Movie Database.



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