If you’ve ever watched a movie and have been wholeheartedly disappointed with how it ended or thought, “If I got to choose, I’d make this ending go differently,” Netflix may have the solution.
With “Bandersnatch,” an interactive episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” the viewers have the power of the plot within their remote control.
This installment of the British thriller gives you a few seconds to choose what the main character, Stefan, will do while building his video game and handling the psychosis creeping into his mind.
Caution: spoilers ahead.
The premise is very self-aware, as his video game is based on a choose-your-own-adventure book like the ones many of us read in grade school. Stefan is tasked and tortured with the prospect of programming different endings for every choice.
In true “Black Mirror” fashion, however, the endings presented to the viewer are by no means happy: a couple of endings present Stefan with an inescapable option of killing his father and landing himself in jail; one ending reveals Stefan’s family, therapist and unknowingly himself all to be actors; a tamer option allows Stefan to simply take his medicine but produce a mediocre game.
My personal favorite ending forces Stefan to break the fourth wall and realize he’s being controlled by a “21st Century friend” using Netflix, a foreign concept in 1984. Telling his therapist can prompt a fight scene – because if someone is watching a movie, it should have action!
What struck me the most about this marvel in entertainment (other than Will Poulter’s fabulous eyebrows) was the commentary on free will it presented.
Colin, a game designer portrayed by Will Poulter, tells Stefan in an LSD-induced rant that in order for Stefan’s game to be successful he must take away some of the supposed free will presented in the choose-your-own-adventure books.
This raises a question of real life, as “Black Mirror” is so good at doing: is free will truly attainable? Are we doomed to a set of predetermined choices, taking one path and winding up in the same spot like Pac-Man?
At the end of the episode, when you’re left with the black mirror of your TV screen, it’s all up to you.
(Note to any older Apple TV viewers: it has been observed that those using an older Apple TV may have difficulties using the interactive features in the show, so they will need a newer streaming device.)
The new “Black Mirror” interactive Netflix experience, “Bandersnatch,” while a definite must-watch for “Black Mirror” fans, could pose as confusing to viewers who aren’t well acquainted with the show.
The “Black Mirror” stand-alone film – which is not a part of the yet-to-be-released season five – is an interactive film in which the audience has a series of choices they make to lead them to one of five (plus a secret) ending.
The major theme of “Bandersnatch” seems to be the illusion of choice, both for the characters and the viewers, which is hinted at multiple times throughout the film.
For example, Colin Ritman (played by Will Poulter) makes the comment during an acid trip that it doesn’t matter what choices you make because the outcome will always be the same.
According to Colin, there are just multiple paths which you can take which will eventually lead you to the same outcome.
This even stretches into the viewers experience. Sometimes if you make the “wrong” choice, the film will ask you to go back, and it will make the “right” decision for you.
The problem with this is that, by making the choice for you, “Bandersnatch” breaks your immersion and reveals that the choices you make are an illusion.
However, it’s important to look at this seeming “issue” as playing into the message of the film as a whole – regardless of whether you choose to eat Sugar Puffs or Frosties, in the end you will still end up in one of five ways. Choice is an illusion, even for the viewer, which fits right into the complex and meta ideas “Black Mirror” is known for.
Also, for any faithful “Black Mirror” viewers, this film is ripe in Easter eggs (although you will have to be observant and pay attention in order to catch them). For example, the game Colin Ritman is working on at the beginning of the game, “Nohzdyve,” is an allusion to Season Three, Episode one, “Nosedive.”
Overall, “Bandersnatch” is a must-watch for any “Black Mirror” fan and could also be good for those who don’t typically watch the show. Although it could prove to be confusing and possibly disturbing to some, so watch with caution.