If you haven’t heard about it yet, Bandersnatch is a Netflix original production in the “Black Mirror” series. Now, being a die-hard fan of the British science fiction series, I had, needless to say, high hopes from this much-hyped Christmas release. And as the title of my post suggests, I am thoroughly disappointed.
(Before you read further, let me warn you of spoilers ahead
Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch: why the hype
Bandersnatch grabbed eyeballs for the simple reason that it is a one-of-its-kind interactive film that lets you choose your own adventure. You read that right. Those of us who’ve read choose your ending books as kids will understand the thrill (or the lack of it).
Set in 1984 (ahem), Bandersnatch is the story of a young programmer Stefan Butler, who tries to adapt a multiple-ending fantasy novel by the same name into a video game. The deeper he goes into the rabbit-hole, the blurrier the lines between reality and fiction get.
Throughout the movie, the viewer is faced with options relating to the storyline – from inconsequential ones like does Stefan choose “Sugar Puffs” or “Frosties” (apparently, the only effect this decision has is a cereal ad Stefan later watches on TV) to more significant ones like “Does he accept an offer from gaming company Tuckersoft” or Does he refuse”.
The way I see it..
I spent over two hours watching the series – everytime you chose a wrong path, you reach what they call a “soft ending” and the storyline loops back to crucial inflection points in the plot, forcing you to choose another option. You keep doing this until you lose track of what choices you exactly took to get to a particular ending. By the time you get to one of the good “real endings” (like the one where Stefan kills his dad, buries him, is caught, watches his game get a mediocre rating and spends the rest of his days drawing glyphs on his cell wall), you are confused by the overlapping plot lines (some of which which spill onto each other despite being in parallel realities) and are no longer as hooked as you were. At least that’s how I felt.
Why I am disappointed..
The plethora of “soft endings” coupled with the looping frustrated me. While this might be the reason many others are loving the film, this is precisely the reason I didn’t like it. It’s a movie by Black Mirror, for crying out loud. Nobody watches Black Mirror for a soft ending such as one where Stefan purs tea over his computer, loses all his work and the game is never released. As a viewer, I expected to be shocked, horrified and even spend days thinking about what I’d just seen, in true Black Mirror style. Compared to the mind-numbing effect of “The entire history of you” (my favorite episode in the series), or the bone-chilling feeling you get after watching “Be right back”, Bandersnatch was well, meh.
What I did like was some of the overspilling (Stefan comes to Tuckersoft to meet Colin for the first time apparently but remembers things he discussed from a visit in a parallel reality) and the allusion to George Orwell’s dystopian thriller 1984 (Colin’s monologue on the government controlling people, plus the endings where Stefan realises he’s just a pawn in somebody else’s game.
What I hated were some of the unnecessary twists in the plotlines – Dr Haynes with the nunchucks (really?), the in-your-face self-advertising by Netflix, and in some places, the lion demon popping up randomly.
All in all, too many “soft endings”, too few shocking endings, too many forceful loops is how I’d describe the movie.
Maybe I was simply unlucky enough to have chosen the wrong paths in the first go (accepting the offer at Tuckersoft, for instead). Maybe my expectations were way too high. Maybe, I’m just an outlier, too different from the average viewer who is going gaga over the movie. Who knows.
But all said and done, Bandersnatch failed to impress me.
On another note, I’m aware that if the viewer does not take a decision within a stipulated number of seconds, the movie automatically chooses an option for you. I’m curious to know which ending does Netflix lead you to, if a viewer were to choose nothing at all. Anyone knows?
If you want to entertain me, take back this interactive movie business and give me plain old shocking Black Mirror anyday. I’d rather be numbed to my core than take minute decisions, most of which take me to disappointing endings.
Do you agree or disagree? What are your views? I’d love to know your views. Reply in the comments below.