‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ goes down the wrong path (Movie review)

I

don’t classify myself as a gamer, but video games are definitely still a part of my life. Having played through multiple “choose your own adventure”-style games, I was excited to give “Bandersnatch” (2018) a try. I have enjoyed nearly every episode of “Black Mirror,” so I was excited to dive in to this movie spinoff of the Netflix series.

The premise of “Bandersnatch” is that the viewer controls the choices of Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), an aspiring game developer in the mid-’80s who is attempting to create a video game based on a “choose your own adventure” book called “Bandersnatch.”  The whole concept is a bit of a mindf***, as we the viewer control a man trying to create a game in which the player controls the choices.

The whole concept is a bit of a mindf***, as we the viewer control a man trying to create a game in which the player controls the choices.

I just spent a little under two hours with “Bandersnatch.” At first, I made careful choices as I attempted to go down the path to success and get my game released. But after about 45 minutes, the choices began to feel like more of an annoyance than fun.  It seemed that no matter what I chose, I would eventually be pushed back into the same choice again anyway.

I found this out on only my third interaction. By choosing “incorrectly,” I was basically shown an ending to the film (which was not very satisfactory) and then given a choice to start again at an earlier point in the story.  At this point I could take the other path. I felt a bit defeated, but pressed on.

A few choices later, I was again presented with an option to go back and choose a different path.  This happened a handful of times until about one hour in, when credits began to roll.   I was surprised that the film was only an hour long, but as I watched the final scene with credits, I was again presented with a choice.

This choice then resulted in yet another “rewind,” and I continued to make choices.   By this point I was completely confused as to what I was supposed to be trying to accomplish. Should I just start over completely?  Is “Bandersnatch” simply showing me what I missed now?  It’s all so jumbled.

For the next hour I made choices, some good and some bad, and was taken through the story in a way that made little to no sense. Finally, credits rolled for real this time. No more choices, just an end.  A terrible, sad ending.  Clearly, this was not the “happy” ending. I did not “win” the game.

After some quick internet searches, it appears that not everyone had the same bad experience I did. Some people have finished in about two hours with a solid, somewhat happy ending. Some people enjoyed making the wrong choices and punishing the main character.  Unfortunately, I will not be trying again. I have no desire to right my wrongs or find out what went wrong, because the whole thing felt like such a mess the first time.

I’m not sure if I should classify “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” as a film or a game, but it didn’t succeed as either for me.  I appreciate what it tried to accomplish here, and the story certainly could fit either media. But after playing for two hours I am left with no closure to the story, which I believe could be very interesting if done correctly.

I wish there was a separate version that I could just watch as a film.  Maybe someone will splice together different options as full movies and post them on YouTube. Then I might consider returning to “Bandersnatch.”

It’s hard to rate this, since  experiences will vary. But my experience was certainly below average.