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Bandersnatch: taking on free will versus planned destiny


Netflix’s newest interactive film is mind boggling

On the weekend of New Year’s Eve, my family and I sat on the couch, staring at the TV deciding between Bandersnatch or Bird Box. Bandersnatch– Netflix’s newest interactive film- intrigued us all and won the vote. We all wanted to know how we could possibly change a movie’s plot line with the click of a finger. Starting the movie was troubling, as it can’t be watched on Apple TV; only smart devices (gaming consoles, smart TVs, phones, and laptops) can play the movie. We plugged in the laptop and began deciding the fate of the characters. The movie started with mundane choices, like which cereal to eat or what song to listen to, but as it progressed, the choices reached higher stakes. 

TESTING THE GAME: Stefan shows the company his game. A few moments after there is a decision to take the deal or not.

Bandersnatch, directed by David Slade and starring Fionn Whitehead, Will Poulter, Craig Parkinson, and Alice Lowe, is one of Netflix’s five interactive films. It is a sci-fi, drama, and mystery in which viewers chose the plot line of the movie. It presents viewers with decisions that will take them on different pathways. There are five main endings, but many different renditions of each. With each decision sending viewers on a different timeline, it is almost impossible to see every story line within the movie.

The story itself is about a young programmer (Stefan), played by Fionn Whitehead, who is creating a video game based on a choose-your-own-path novel. The desired endgame of the movie seems to be Stefan receiving five stars on his game without ending up in jail. The story is how Stefan gets five stars on his game battling his dad, therapist, mentor, and company.

Bandersnatch’s plot follows a rather basic and cliche story line. The twists and alternate paths, however, are intriguing. The first time watching the movie is neat, but nothing special; yet the attempts following one’s first intrigue viewers more and more, making them want to see all the paths.

Bandersnatch is a darker movie with demonic appearances and choices, but there are also some funny moments to keep it from being too scary. It all depends on the choices that are made when each story is seen, which can be frustrating.

Everyone’s viewing of the movie will be different because of the options. Sometimes, the option chosen will be wrong and the movie sends them back to that decision. Other times, it will replay the movie in a sped-up version, hoping they will make a different choice. So while the viewer can chose the story, there are pushes in certain directions. 

The decisions are placed in very thought-out parts. There are just enough to keep people interested, but not so many that they distract from the movie. It still feels like a movie and not a video game.

TRUST ME: Colin gives Stefan advice as if he knows what Stefan is going through.

There have been some flow charts made by avid fans, but other than this, the choices viewers make and how they will affect them are usually unpredictable. They all interlace and show different stories. This can make the movie rather confusing at times, especially if viewers have to keep going back because of certain decisions. There are many backstories that can be seen throughout the movie, but if the decisions made don’t show them, the movie can be even more confusing. It is almost like an instruction manual is needed to receive the best viewing.

The acting in the movie was decent, but could’ve been better. The characters all were very complex and difficult to execute. All of them were British and some of the American actors accents just didn’t match up.

After a decision was made, the movie would sometimes slightly glitch while it was switching the story line, but it was pretty unnoticeable and didn’t really affect the overall movie.

One track of the movie shows the story of Stefan’s childhood. (Spoiler warning) In this track, Stefan’s father is shown drugging Stefan. The scene of the mother leaving for the train is then replayed but this time it is shown as a recording, implying the whole story Stefan believes is false. The actor playing the fake mother is also shown to be the therapist.

The pathways like this one are what keeps the movie interesting. It opens new possibilities to be thought about. The interlaced connections and Easter egg hunts are what make the movie so advanced.

It’s not the type of movie to watch if viewers just want a light story. This movie requires a lot of thought, connections, and interpretation. It is like solving a mystery.

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