When you read the other reviews of Bandersnatch, they will probably go ga-ga over the interactive story telling that Netflix is bringing to adult audiences. So, let’s get that out of the way. Interactive story telling has been around for a long, long time in video games and Netflix even has it in kids’ programming.
Second, how was the experience for us as an audience? In one word, it was tiresome. Audiences, film audiences, are accustomed to lay back, open their beverage and take in the entertainment. Netflix is changing that, and it’s a good change – but it will be an acquired taste and not quite here yet.
To compare, in my opinion, tabs are the best things to happen to mobile computing, and yet, every year, we read articles about how that market is collapsing. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get on with the review of Bandersnatch, the creative product. It is already a technological marvel that reviewers will doff their hat to.
Stefan is a computer games programmer from the 80s, who’s contracted by a big game producer to make a new game – based on a book Bandersnatch. The book itself has some murky past, with the writer killing his wife. As Stefan begins the game programming, the process overwhelms him and takes him down the proverbial rabbit hole.
As the film progresses, the audience must take decisions that will change Stefan’s life, for the better or for the worse – and its mostly the latter.
What’s Wow: Bandersnatch has one of the best scripts in sci-fi entertainment today. Critics can only marvel at the amount of time and thought that has gone into making the story of the series so water-tight and believable. Think about it, the writers had to create a scenario for every action that the protagonist takes, and then branch it off towards either the story progression or the dead-end. Yes, gamers will raise their eyebrows in a ‘ah, so this it is’, but the experience is still new for streaming audiences.
Performances are stellar. The characters are postmodern. Not much of a backstory, some of their actions are questionable, so on and so forth. It’s a shame that everything else will be buried under the ‘technological marvel’ tag that Bandersnatch will get as the younger critics get their Netflix subscriptions on later today.
Fionn Whitehead, the enigmatic Will Poulter and others are part of cinema history with this film, billed as a Black Mirror Event, because it doesn’t yet fit in the traditional straitjacket-of-a-term of a film. They portray the whacky, intense and intimately human characters with the charm of a veteran.
What’s Blah: We again come to the interactive experience and that could be overwhelming to audiences. Our viewing experience was that after a couple of interactive viewing, we were zombie-clicking the options, trying hard to remember where we left off, and which version of the Bandersnatch world are we in after that current interactive option. That’s not the dictionary meaning of casual entertainment, but hey, it’s a whole new world out there. Younger audiences will call this out, saying that entertainment’s changing – but yes, there’s a whole ‘old’ generation – he generation that the film portrays actually – who’d still want their entertainment to be interactive-less, swaying them to sleep on a cold night.
Parting Shot: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a great concept but casual audiences might just get overwhelmed with the whole experience.
Cast: Asim Chaudhary, Craig Parkinson, Will Poulter, Fionn Whitehead
Director: David Slade
Producers: Charlie Brooker, Annabel Jones
“Black Mirror : Bandersnatch” streams on Netflix.