It’s Your Move! Netflix’s First Interactive Film “Bandersnatch” (Spoilers)
By Christina Yoon
Sugar Puffs or Frosties? Throw pills away or flush them? Throw tea over computer or yell at dad? Although these questions may seem bizarre, they are just a few of the pivotal choices that drive the plot of Netflix’s first interactive film, “Bandersnatch.”
“Bandersnatch” is the newest addition to Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” series. Like his previous work, the film is a psychological thriller that questions ethics in technology. However, Brooker takes a different approach in exploring the paranoia of technology with his newest interactive film. By placing the watcher in the center of all the dilemmas and plot twist, “Bandersnatch” not only offers a unique experience overall, but it provides an experience that is distinct to each watcher.
The film follows the protagonist Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), a young video game programmer who falls deep into questioning reality and his own free will. The film begins with Butler preparing to bring his newest choose-your-adventure game based on a novel with the same name, “Bandersnatch,” to a famous video game company named Tuckersoft. Butler is captivated by this book, a possession of his late mother, despite the dark history of the author who went crazy following the book’s publication and killed his family. Like the novel’s author, Butler struggles with his mental health as he constantly takes medication and meets with his therapist, hoping to cope with his guilt concerning his mother’s death and his broken relationship with his father.
The film consists of definitive moments that develop the storyline where the watcher is asked to make a choice between two possibilities such as picking Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast. As the plot thickens, the choices become more intense, even requiring viewers to choose between burying a body or chopping it up. The choices are presented on the bottom of the screen alongside a timer; if the audience fails to make a choice in time, a random option is chosen. Due to the film’s unique set-up , the rewind button is unavailable, forcing the audience to stick with its choices.
Based on these choices, the movie takes each viewer down a different path which eventually concludes with five different endings.
The interactive approach in “Bandersnatch” forces the audience to do more than just question what it would be like to be that character. Instead, it imposes a sense of responsibility on the development of the story and the conclusion of Butler’s life. Brooker presents a newly disturbing method as the viewers find themselves questioning their free will alongside Butler. However, caught up in the film’s complicated execution, the movie lacks the intricate plot and character developments found in Brooker’s previous work. Though the choosing aspect of the movie is what makes it unique, it also becomes an obstacle to Brooker’s ability to generate suspense in his viewers and provide an in-depth look into the personalities of the characters.
Regardless, the choose-your-adventure feature of “Bandersnatch” is one that cannot be commonly found in movies. Providing a specialized experience for each watcher, “Bandersnatch” is definitely a film that is worth the watch.
Duration: Dependent upon selected options
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Will Poulter, Alice Lowe, Asim Chaudhry
Director: David Slade
Screenplay: Charlie Brooker