Zach’s Zany Movie? Reviews: BANDERSNATCH (Black Mirror, Netflix)

Is BANDERSNATCH a movie? I guess it is if you take the long ass process of trying to go back near the end of the experience where it lets you either go to the end credits or choose a different path. I’m mostly reviewing it because, like fuckin’ Bird Box, it seems to be the only thing anybody has been talking about the past week. Probably because of the whole choose your adventure type deal. Does anyone remember doing one with a book recently? So here we are. My experience with Black Mirror? I’ve seen three episodes. I’ve seen the one where Bryce Dallas Howard goes nuts in a social world, I’ve seen the one where Kurt Russell’s son has a nightmare in virtual reality, and of course I’ve seen the Jesse Plemons and the whole Star Trek unique kind of pseudo parody of an episode. All of those episodes are better than this.

I’ve had minor experiences of choose your own adventure type deals. When I was a kid I had several of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps choose your own adventure books. I didn’t like those either. They either ended too fast, or the ending would suck, or I would lose my place when trying to go back and pick a different path. All of those experiences kept rushing back at me when watching and choosing my paths during this ‘adventure.’ I went through all of the endings Bandersnatch, and they were either unsatisfying or too meta, none of it having enough Will Poulter to justify me having watching it. I think in the end, I just didn’t think the story was interesting enough to warrant a choose your own adventure. None of the choices were interesting and none of them really were outlandish enough to make much of a difference.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m sure a lot of people will be mystified that I didn’t like this. The ‘film’ takes place in the 80s, where a young male (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead) is making a choose your own adventure game from his favorite nove, Bandersnatch, itself a choose your own adventure book. A game developer is interested and with some advice from a programmer named Colin (the always great Will Poulter) he tries to finish the game on a deadline, and with each passing day, he gets a little more crazy. Too bad the whole thing didn’t get as bat shit crazy as it could have (yes, yes I know about the Netflix option, but I’m talking even further) and none of the endings were really that satisfying to me narrative wise.

Which stinks because David Slade’s direction and stylistic choices, including pretty damn good cinematography, and all of the acting, are all much better than the story deserves. Put all of that in a different plot, with a shit ton of more paths and a shit ton of more bat shit crazy choices, and this could’ve been something really really special. Will Poulter is great in it, considering he really only has a huge presence in only two scenes. Will Poulter deserved a better Black Mirror episode, where he headlined it. I am hoping that the success of this brings us something like that. This experiment isn’t a complete failure, as the one aspect I did like with the choices was the seamless 10 second timer and the flawless flow of the editing. No pauses, no noticeable breaks. Take those aspects and put it in a better plot and story and next time it could be something that everyone talks about for years, and not just weeks.

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