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I’m Bad with TV Shows…
I can’t say that I am all that familiar with the show Black Mirror, although I have seen a few episodes here and there; from what I have seen I surely did enjoy. They’re dark, twisted and interesting tales that I like to visit every so often. Only reasons that I don’t watch the series more frequently is that I’m terrible with television shows, I take an eternity to finally getting around to watching a show and when I finally do I tend to quit watching after a certain amount of time. Not necessarily because I believe the content to be bad, sometimes I can find a TV show to be absolutely captivating and I’ll still find myself not returning for another episode. There have been a select few to hold my interest, but usually I fall to the wayside with television and gravitate more towards film. The other reason is that episodes of Black Mirror tend to be fairly bleak in their conclusions, which can heavily wain on my attitude. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good bleak ending, but there is just so much that one can take before they get bummed out, you know what I mean?
Innovation In Interactive Filmmaking
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a smart and innovative way in exploring the possibilities of interactive movies. In case you are unaware of this fact about the film, this is basically a ‘pick your own story’ approach where it is up to the viewer to choose where the narrative leads and what decisions a character makes. This idea was experimented with back in the mid-90s under the title Mr. Payback as well as on home video release of the horror film, Final Destination 3. Both were met with underwhelming reviews, although Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert managed to provide one of their most entertaining episodes on Mr. Payback with how much they hated it. Although I think that if they were alive today, they would agree that this is by far a major step above Mr. Payback.
Bandersnatch really plays with the genre that it’s set in and all the different diverging paths that the story can go on, I had a pretty fun time with this. As the plot involves a nineteen year old kid named Stefan who is hired to program a video game that deals with several pathways it can go on, his mind starts to unravel as he starts to believe that his own life is being manipulated out of his control by some invisible force. Every decision he makes, or rather what we as the audience decide for him to do, slips Stefan’s mind further and further into madness. There were a number of times where I believed that the story was wrapping up, right down to the credits rolling on screen and then something would happen and I realized that the ride wasn’t quite over yet. Some choices have very small effects while others may string the viewer along for quite a while, then when the thread seems to have ended it still holds an impact on our lead character while playing around with the timeline of its own reality. This was clearly handled with much care as the filmmakers seemed to have put in a lot of work into crafting the structure of this movie. Since some pathways honestly lead to dead ends, the viewer tends to have to go back to certain choices to make and instead of seeing a scene play out the exact same way as we had previously already witnessed, there’s something distinctly different about it. Whether in how the conversation between characters play out or what have you, it’s never exactly the same as before, which helps with avoiding any monotony that could have occurred here. I never quite knew where the story was going, but I liked watching scenes build up to extremely odd and disorienting ways.
As much fun as I did have with this movie, it’s not perfect and I do have a few criticisms. One being that the lead character, Stefan, is a bit of a blank slate. Although I feel as though that was intentional in order to draw the viewers into his shoes more, I think that if the story were to focus on a more interesting character like the one that Will Poulter is playing then I would have probably loved this movie. Will Poulter is a phenomenal actor that I only wished could have been feature more here. Another issue for me was that after a while with traveling backwards after specific plot threads end, I grew a little tired of the gimmick. Not terribly so since I was still interested as to where everything was leading and how it would all conclude, but enough so to where I did contemplate cutting straight to the credits a couple of times. However, if I was watching it with a group of my friends then that thought probably wouldn’t have even entered my mind. Lastly, the actual ending felt somewhat abrupt. I suppose that may be a different story with the alternate ending, I’m not entirely sure, but the ending that I chose was quick to the finish line and I would have liked maybe a little more to have been done with it. Especially since there are certain paths that elude to a sinister plot going on, but then it really kind of leads nowhere by the end.
This Would Not Have Worked As A Regular Movie
I am certain that this would not have worked remotely as well if it were a straight forward narrative. If this didn’t involve the viewer’s efforts as much as it does with it’s multiple choice angle, but instead was to simply be viewed and not interacted with then this would feel like such a mess. Technically speaking, the narrative is a mess, however intentionally so and because it is structured as a self-aware ‘choose your story’, it works. It has fun with itself to the point where it includes a moment where the viewer is practically speaking with the main character. This is meant for the platform that it has chosen for itself and Netflix was the best way to release it. If this were released in theaters I can see this getting pretty messy, I believe that this is perfect for small gatherings of friends or family and popping on the TV to have a good time with.
It’s On Netflix, So Why Not?
For the fact that it’s free to watch, that being if you already have the subscription to Netflix, I’d say that it is totally worth the watch. Personally, watching it alone was fine, and I liked the specific features that went along with the decisions involving the controller of my Playstation vibrating. I am positive though that with a small group of friends or family members then this movie would be even more fun sitting through and experiencing the ride with. Have a laugh picking out what the character should do, be curious as to what your decisions will lead to next and have a ball with it. I wouldn’t say that this was anything all that scary, so if you’re looking to be terrified then I would say look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for some fun sci-fi was a dark edge then this should hit the spot. If this sounds like this might be right up your alley then I say to check it out! If not, then I’m sure there’s plenty of other choices on Netflix at your disposal.
© 2018 John Plocar