Netflix on Friday released a standalone Black Mirror movie, subtitled Bandersnatch, in which we the viewer are invited to make choices for the main character. To what fates have you thus far led wannabe video game designer Stefan Butler?
English actor Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk) stars as 19-year-old Stefan, who as the movie opens is about to take a meeting with Tuckersoft, a video game company circa 1984 that has been riding the coattails of genius programmer Colin Ritman (Maze Runner‘s Will Poulter). Stefan pitches company boss Mohan Tucker (Asim Chaudhry) an adaptation of Bandersnatch, a Choose Your Own Path fantasy novel by Jerome F. Davies — a rather infamous author who, fearing there was no such thing as free will, lost his mind and, as many gossips seem to dwell on, lopped off his wife’s head.
As you watch Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, prompts intermittently appear at the bottom edge of the screen, inviting you to choose Stefan’s next response/action (within 10 seconds; I never checked to see what happens if you “timed out”). Sometimes, the results are merely cosmetic — he’ll listen to the Thompson Twins (damn straight!) versus another cassette tape. And sometimes, your first choice proves to be moot, because you’ll soon after be “forced” to circle back to that moment and take the other path. (Try as I did to not talk about Mum, I eventually had to. #Issues)
Layering meta on top of meta, Stefan, like his idol Davies, comes to sense that someone else is making life choices for him. (Holy crap, is that person us?…!) Does this paranoia merely exist in his head, or is he, like, the subject of some Very Black Mirror Experiment?
Thus far today, I have “played through” about four times — after the first viewing resulted in Stefan’s quite horrific death. My second journey ended on a far less gruesome note, while my final go-round abruptly landed Stefan behind bars. And in none of my scenarios did Bandersnatch impress the persnickety in-movie game reviewer.
Oh, I also always choose Frosties, though I hear that going with Sugar Puffs points you down a quickly different path. (Yes, there is a “map” out there on the Internet already detailing each choice/outcome.) But I’m partial to Frosties, dammit.