black mirror is back with Bandersnatch, a feature film with a massive twist: the story invites you to choose your own adventure. Rather than unfolding in a typical linear fashion, Bandersnatch allows the viewer to select options to deepen the narrative. Make the wrong choice and it will cost you dearly. The question is: can this even be classified as a movie? Or is it the most elaborate video game of all time? And how does it all work? Below we offer some tips on how to watch Bandersnatch.
Bandersnatch is set in 1984, following a deranged young programmer Stefan (played by Dunkirk actor Fionn Whitehead) who “begins to question reality as he adapts a sprawling fantasy novel into a video game and soon faces a mind-bending challenge”. Since this is defined in the black mirror universe, you can safely assume that weird and wild things are happening.
But the strangest element of Bandersnatch is its Choose Your Own Adventure format. In true meta fashion, the CYOA setup is baked into the storyline – the fantasy novel Stefan is adapting is a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and the options to choose your own path are part of the game he’s designing. It’s smart at first, then it starts to get a bit tedious, before it gets completely insane.
Here’s how it works:
- While you watch Bandersnatch, some scenes will require Stefan to make certain choices. Two options appear at the bottom of the screen and the viewer must choose which one to pursue. Sometimes the options are mundane (the first decision is which cereal to eat). Sometimes they disturb (“Bury the body” or “Cut it”).
- If you choose the “wrong” choice – it’s the choice that doesn’t advance the narrative properly, a scenario will unfold, something will go horribly wrong, and you’ll have to go back to the previous scene and choose the other option.
- Although you have the option to skip or reverse ten seconds, the usual fast forward and rewind options are disabled. There’s also no timecode, which means you have no idea how long the movie will last.
- The movie is technically 1 hour and 30 minutes, but choosing options and having to go back and relive certain scenes ends up extending the running time considerably. In total, about five hours of footage exist. So you might want to clear your schedule.
- If you decide to sit down and choose no options, the movie will choose for you. But, in a cheeky and somewhat annoying twist, the film will sometimes choose the “wrong” option, forcing you to backtrack anyway.
Your pleasure to Bandersnatch will likely relate to how much you enjoy point-and-click style video games. Personally, I grew a little impatient with the whole effort, but your mileage may vary – try it for yourself. We will have a full Bandersnatch exam for you on Monday.
If you’re still a little confused, here’s a chart that seems generally accurate.
And here are some “Banderfacts” straight from Netflix.
- Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is Netflix’s first live-action, adult-oriented interactive experience.
- Number of shooting days: 35
- Number of unique permutations: 1,000,000,000,000+*
- Execution time for the default path: approximately 90 minutes
- Number of Endings: There are 5 main endings with multiple variations of each…we’re leaving some mystery here and looking forward to fans discovering them all!
- Language availability: subtitled in 28 languages (including English); Dubbed in 10 languages.
- Device Support: Available on most recent devices, including TVs, game consoles, web browsers, and Android and iOS devices running the latest version of the Netflix app. It is not yet supported on Chromecast, Apple TV and some legacy devices. (For those trying to view on an unsupported device, we’ll have a message directing them to a supported device.)
* This is where all the combinatorial math you learned in elementary school comes in handy. Given the number of choices, the unique number of variations (or permutations) is over a trillion. Note that this does not mean that there are actually a trillion unique paths or scenarios.