Movie Review: "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch" (2018)
I’m frankly a little surprised that it took until the ass-end of 2018 for someone to put out a movie version of a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. It seems like an idea that should’ve happened by now. I don’t know; maybe the technology wasn’t there or something. Despite watching movies almost constantly, I’m still no expert at what it takes to make something like the interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Here’s the rundown: Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead; Dunkirk) is a game designer in the summer of 1984. He’s working on his version of a famous novel called “Bandersnatch” by an author who completely lost his shit after writing it and murdered his wife. The book and the game are both “Choose Your Own Adventure” style- you make the choices the affect the story, so you can have multiple outcomes and many scenarios. He has the opportunity to have his game accepted by Tuckersoft for realization and distribution. That’s your first choice as the viewer. From there you are off to the races.
With echoes of Groundhog’s Day and The Twilight Zone, Bandersnatch is one hell of an engaging ride. It can take as little as 40 minutes or as long as a couple of hours depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. I recommend going all the way down. There are so many points of divergence and choice that my wife and I were really getting into it, trying to track down all paths and looking up flow charts on the internet. It’s really quite clever, both as a concept and a model for the future.
From a production standpoint, Bandersnatch is slick and effective. Whitehead plays the man losing the foundation of his sanity with aplomb. The supporting players are all solid, with notable mention going to fellow game designer Colin Ritman (Will Poulter; We’re the Millers). He’s a scene stealer, and most of the really meaty work here involves he and Stefan’s mutual descent. There are striking visual drug effects that any seasoned user can tell you hit the mark straight on.
The thought that kept occurring to me while watching, though, was a single word: potential. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch isn’t perfect but more like a first draft that comes across an editor’s desk full of misspellings and incomplete ideas but bursting with raw power. I would love to see what this format does in the hands of the right writer and director (or the wrong ones for that matter…polished turds are fun every now and then). Just the phrase “Choose Your Own Adventure Horror” gives me a big, veiny, geeky stiffy.
Keep that remote handy, folks. Let’s see what choices you make. I bet you’ll find yourself agreeing with virtually everything I’ve said here.
Let me know. Or don’t. It’s your choice, after all.