“Bandersnatch” puts fate in the viewers’ hands

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“Bandersnatch” puts fate in the viewers’ hands

Netflix official poster for Black Mirror's

Netflix official poster for Black Mirror's "Bandersnatch"

Poster by Netflix

Netflix official poster for Black Mirror's "Bandersnatch"

Poster by Netflix

Poster by Netflix

Netflix official poster for Black Mirror's "Bandersnatch"

Amanda Beyer, Staff Writer

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When Netflix announced the pending release of a standalone movie as a part of the darkly futuristic and often prescient Black Mirror, one would assume that the longtime followers of the show would be prepared for what they were given. “Bandersnatch,” however, struck fans and those new to the show alike with a sense of “Wait, what’s happening?” as the central concept of the film reveals itself- the viewer is given the power to make many of the protagonist’s decisions for him after the fashion of a typical “Choose Your Own Adventure” game.

At first, making decisions for teenage video game programmer Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) is pleasantly inconsequential. Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast? Sugar Puffs, of course! The music to play in the car? Easy, Thompson Twins! In fact, I was just starting to feel at ease with the decisions popping up at the bottom of the screen when, to my concern, they began to hold more and more weight as Stefan- that is, myself- must make choices surrounding, coincidentally enough, the development of his own “Choose Your Own Adventure Game,” based off a book with the title that lends the movie its own.
“Bandersnatch” rapidly descends into a rush of choices, each one leading the viewer- or perhaps more properly, the player- down a different path. Some paths force a reversion to a previous point in the story, others bring a cascade of new decisions. The result is a labyrinthine map of action and consequence, cause and effect. I was quickly hooked into trying to make the right decisions for Stefan. Unfortunately, the tangled, lengthy maze of the plot slowly wore on me, and running into dead ends went from disappointing to tedious.

The problem of “Bandersnatch” was its inability to avoid repetition. Unfortunately, this repetition is, to some degree, the result of an effort to give the player more room to operate as they pleased. Because “Bandersnatch” has so many choices along multiple lines of story, a wrong decision farther down a certain line forced the player back a considerable amount. As every misstep sent me stumbling back though the same monologue of all previous choices, I had less and less patience with the plot. The story eventually concluded, but by then my popcorn was long gone, and I was simply relieved that it was over.

This flaw does not mean that “Bandersnatch” was impossible to enjoy. Like every Black Mirror episode, the movie posed a challenging question, though it was slightly muddled by the ramblings of the story. Additionally, there were quite a few references to previous episodes, another characteristic of the series. The actors were talented, the sets were intricate and thought-out, and the special effects were captivating.

Ultimately, “Bandersnatch” is worth a watch if you have time and patience, and especially if the long wait for more Black Mirror has you starved for a dive into an eerie alternate reality. While “Bandersnatch” was not the best of Black Mirror, it succeeded in its intent and offered viewers something new and unusual as they await the release of the next season.

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