“Bandersnatch”: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure That May Leave You Wanting More



"Bandersnatch" was released on Dec. 28, 2018. It stars Fionn Whitehead as a young programmer challenged with the struggle between fate and free will.

Black Mirror fans are a particularly eager bunch. So when “Bandersnatch,” the newest installment of Charlie Brooker’s series was released on Dec. 28, 2018, theories and comprehensive flowcharts quickly filled the Internet, opinions varying wildly.

The premise of the standalone film is simple: an interactive format allows viewers to select options that dictate the outcome, with a seemingly unlimited number of endings to discover. The year is 1984, and Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) has been crafting “Bandersnatch,” a choose-your-own-adventure game based on the book of the same name, written by an author who had gone mad. Stefan is given the opportunity to work on his game at Tuckersoft, a video game company, which he may accept or refuse at your discretion.

The choices start out easily enough. You are presented with a choice: Sugar Puffs or Frosties? As the film progresses the options with which you are presented grow darker, prompting viewers to make life-changing (or indeed, life-ending) decisions for young programmer Stefan with a click of their mouse, leading unstable Stefan into a world of confusion.

While not without flaw, “Bandersnatch” is perhaps a glimpse into the future of entertainment. The integration of interactive elements into a narrative format allows the viewer to connect with the action in a new, innovative way. Black Mirror has toyed with the concept of free will since it first aired in 2011, and “Bandersnatch” throws you face-first into an existential debate over who truly holds control, if anyone, forcing the viewer to take a nosedive into the coinciding worlds of fate and choice.

While undeniably original, elements of the film seem unpolished. After reaching an ending, viewers are asked if they would like to go back and try again, and some choices bring the viewer to an abrupt halt with no resolution, as though those paths were not fully thought out. It felt as though I was being urged to make a certain choice at times to further the storyline, which did nothing to aid in the illusion of control.

Like most Black Mirror episodes, “Bandersnatch” is dark. The show’s fans are a hard crowd to please, but they were greeted with something new. It’s challenging, it’s fresh. But it left me wondering whether I wanted to find all the endings purely for a sense of completion rather than an emotional takeaway. Unlike previous episodes, it did not leave me awake at night. It may not have been perfect, but it’s undeniably creative. However, to those less-than-diehard fans, it left much to be wished for.