Netflix’s latest Black Mirror experiment, an interactive choose-your-own-adventure film called Bandersnatch, hit the streaming service on December 28. In case you've been living under a TV-deprived rock over the holiday period, people were pretty excited about watching it.
Set in 1984, the narrative follows computer programmer Stefan, who is trying to adapt a fantasy novel called Bandersnatch into a video game. The viewer is tasked with making the character's choices for him, with each decision sending the plot in different directions. Some of the conclusions are happy, some are dark, and others downright surreal.
While several critics were blown away by the complexity of the story — The Guardian's Stuart Heritage called it "a masterpiece of sophistication" — others were slightly more lukewarm in their critique, praising its ambition but harboring doubts about the execution. "Bandersnatch, as creative work and not as experiment, falls so short of the standard Black Mirror has set that to put it forward is to risk the credibility the series's first four seasons have earned," wrote Daniel D'Addario of Variety.
Peep a round-up of reactions below.
Stuart Etheridge, The Guardian
Fortunately, it works. Bandersnatch is a masterpiece of sophistication. From a user viewpoint, it is seamless… As an experience, it's remarkable. Even more remarkable, though, is the ambition of storytelling on display.
By the time I'd finished exploring I was left with a profound feeling of satisfaction, as if Black Mirror had prodded me towards the ending it felt was best. Which makes sense because, after all, free will is an illusion.
Mark Butler, iNews
Through its cocktail of delirious outcomes, Bandersnatch blends darkness and light, humour and shock-value, and ultimately gives the Black Mirror audience far more than it bargained for.
"[Charlie] Brooker and Netflix have somehow managed to sell the viewer on the potential for interactive TV and movies here, while simultaneously commenting on and subverting the entire concept itself.
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter
No doubt ardent supporters of Bandersnatch will point out that the manipulation is part of the experience, which is true and that many choices come fraught with moral conundrums that speak to your character or mankind at large, which also might be at least partly true.
But that doesn't make the overarching story memorable or entertaining, at least dramatically. It might be entertaining as an experience or even an experiment, but I would argue that's only true part of the time, depending on the choices you make.
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
I like the idea that Netflix is pushing the boundaries of what we should expect when we turn on their service. I also want to see a traditional season of Black Mirror more than I do another one of these.
Brian Lowry, CNN
While the producers encourage the viewer to try different options and explore potential avenues of the story, the manner in which the narrative keeps circling back to the main through-line becomes numbing and repetitive the longer the experience drags on.
Linda Holmes, NPR
You’re probably not supposed to be bored, which I eventually was. And you’re probably not supposed to realize you don’t actually care what happens to any of the people, which I eventually did.
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