After its fourth season hit Netflix’s streaming platform service exactly one year ago, Charlie Brooker, creator of the British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror, gave fans another installment of the franchise to look forward to before heading into its fifth season. This installment of discussion is a project conceived by Brooker and executive producer Annabel Jones in May/June of 2017. Titled Bandersnatch, this project was eventually intended to be an interactive film of the series rather than a usual episode, and filming and production for this took longer than it would for a typical episode of Black Mirror. In this film, viewers would make their own choices for the protagonist, and the rest would be history.
In this review, we discuss and analyze this December’s Black Mirror installment, which tells the story of a young 19-year-old programmer in mid-to-late 1984’s England who adapts a fantasy novel into a video game.
Bandersnatch is directed by David Slade (director of 2007’s 30 Days of Night and Starz’s fantasy drama television series American Gods) and written by Charlie Brooker.
Bandersnatch is conveyed through a medium of storytelling that is actually pretty common (mainly found in video games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, Batman, and more) but its story is nonetheless one that has not been told before. The non-linear script and characters of this Black Mirror film keep audiences enthralled. The choices you make (each within 10 seconds’ time) maintain an intense and thrilling atmosphere, and the imagery and references to books and video games are magnificent.
Script and Characters
The story begins with character Stefan Butler in July 1984 and ends with his Bandersnatch game being reviewed in December of that same year. Along the way, he gets help from his idol and famed video game developer Colin Ritman and learns more about his family than he had initially known.
The film does well integrating meta-commentary and deep dark notions on free will that it will persuade you to believe in the Pac-Man conspiracy. It wonderfully and horrifically incorporates the Panopticon surveillance model, which was designed in the late 18th century to observed inmates of an institution who assume they are being watched at all times.
Bandersnatch is titled and conceptualized after a fictional character from Lewis Carroll’s poems and makes heavy allusions to his works, including one that likens the physical appearance of the film’s in-game creature the Pax to the Alice In Wonderland author’s own drawing of the Bandersnatch. According to an article by Vox, the Bandersnatch is said to be “equal parts whimsical and terrifying.” Carroll incorporated the creature in a standalone poem he wrote entitled “The Hunting of the Snark,” two years after publishing Through the Looking Glass, a sequel to Alice.
While Charlie Brooker explained that the “black mirror” of the series is a shiny screen of a television, of a computer monitor, or of a smartphone, “technology … does feel like a drug.” Carroll’s “looking-glass” is also a mirror of sorts, one in which his own character Alice slips into a world with a striking resemblance to hers, albeit one which reveals itself to be “a much more dangerous place.” Vox describes Brooker’s Bandersnatch as a “nifty parallel” to Carroll’s Wonderland.
The film takes place in 1984, and that is no coincidence. It makes a great reference to George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a literary classic in which most of its story’s world population is watched by an omnipresent government and has even their most private information and memories taken for public use of the government and corporations, something similar to what we have already seen in the Black Mirror series.
Choices and Endings
Due to the many choices made throughout the film, there is no official runtime. There is a 312-minute total of footage shot for the project, but Brooker said he lost track of how many “definitive” endings there are for the film and that there are “more than” [five] for sure. From what Netflix says, there are “five ‘main’ endings [but with] multiple variants on each.”
Bandersnatch reminds me of a film I adore so much titled The Butterfly Effect, a film in which its protagonist makes a series of choices, all which drastic repercussions and ramifications. I do admit, however, that Brooker successfully wrote the story in such a way that every cause has an effect in turn.
Overall, this film is outstanding and Series 5 of Black Mirror cannot arrive soon enough. Bandersnatch‘s 1980s soundtrack is also an enjoyable aspect of the film that keeps me watching to the very end. From cereal brands to vinyl music to hallucinogenic drugs, the choice is yours.
Just to make one thing clear: You, the viewer, get to make the decision. You play the god of Stefan Butler’s world. You get to push all his buttons and steer the wheel as he is slowly driven mad by that which he cannot control. Brooker paves these paths for us with great consideration. For that, the film gets a 4 out of 5 because there is no such thing as perfect.
Easter Eggs, References, and Trivia Facts:
- “NOHZDYVE” is a Tuckersoft game Colin Ritman develops and tests at the beginning of the film when he first meets Stefan Butler. The title of the game is an allusion to the Series 3’s first episode of the same name featuring Bryce Dallas Howard and Alice Eve. Nosedive also foreshadows the figurative and literal fall of Bandersnatch‘s characters as the film progresses.
- “METL HEDD” is a Tuckersoft game and one of the video game company’s biggest hits. A game designed by Colin Ritman, it is also a reference to the Series 4’s fifth episode of the same name.
- This yellow lovable character is also referenced throughout the film and adds on to its theme of free will, but you will have to find out how as you play.
There are other Easter Eggs in the film (most of which are references to Black Mirror episodes), but you will have to sit through all 5 hours and 12 minutes of Bandersnatch footage yourself to see what they are.
Have you seen the film? Which ending was your favorite? What did you think of the film? Let us know! For more Black Mirror-related news and reviews, follow Geek Motivation on Twitter (@GeekMotivation) and Instagram (@geekmotivation).
Written by: John Daniel Tangalin