“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” bores with bland plotline


Mai Weber

“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” fails to meet expectations of creating a more intriguing plotline, upon which the merit of the movie relies.

On Dec. 28, Netflix released its first live-action interactive film, “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Though promising intriguing choices and a unique premise, “Bandersnatch” fails to meet the standards set by the beloved sci-fi thriller series with a flat plot and uncreative endings.

Written by the director of the TV series, Charlie Brooker, “Bandersnatch” was highly anticipated among seasoned “Black Mirror” fans, in part because of the heavy advertising of Netflix in promoting the film. With rumours flying about the vintage-inspired filming locations, viewers anticipated an experience similar to fan-favorites like “San Junipero” and “USS Callister,” but were largely disappointed.

The story follows Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a programming whiz who becomes intrigued by a choose-your-own adventure novel and attempts to recreate it as a videogame. He meets with popular video game production company manager Thankur (Asim Chaudhry), and there, encounters Colin (Will Poulter), a prodigal video game creator, who becomes a mentor-figure. From there, the plot varies wildly based on each choice, as the viewer encounters numerous story-altering scenarios.

The runtime plays anywhere from 40 minutes to almost three hours, depending on which ending the watcher gets and whether they choose to restart to a checkpoint to continue or not. Along the way, viewers also encounter dead ends — though they would have been frustrating, the creators handled this scenario well, recapping through the story quickly before arriving at a checkpoint for the viewer to make a different choice.

However, at times, the triviality of choices, the lack of others, and the absurdity of some made the “interactive” feature unappealing.

For example, the first two user decisions to choose a type of morning cereal or a type of music on the bus had no effect on the outcome. In a similar situation, users were given the option to destroy Stefan’s computer or throw tea at it, each having the same effect in the long-term. The most bizarre choice, however, occurred toward the end of the story, where users are given the option to tell Stefan he’s being controlled by a person watching Netflix for entertainment.

The whole premise was interesting, but lacked the depth and complexity of “Black Mirror” standards. Unlike in most episodes, the suspense existed entirely inside the character’s head, rather than in the real world. Easter eggs nodding to other “Black Mirror” episodes or pop culture are prevalent, though well-hidden. For example, the entire film is set in 1984, adding a further layer of meaning as it references the famous George Orwell novel of the same name.

Overall, “Bandersnatch” represents the first step in a new era of Netflix films, that that may reshape the way we view film as a form of entertainment. However, “Black Mirror” is more often than not a commentary on society, and how the way we interact with technology reveals more about ourselves and can shape our lives. The film strays from this theme in an isolated incident of a single person’s disillusionment and eventual insanity, therefore lacking the broader messages that the series portrays. The interactive feature could have been utilized thoughtfully, but instead, “Bandersnatch” feels like a gimmicky test-drive for innovative films to come.