bm1.jpg

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a game of choices

This week’s column is a “choose your own adventure.” You will be prompted to make a series of choices as you read. Each choice will take you to a different outcome. Have fun.

Netflix’s new release “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is an interactive movie that requires you to make choices with your remote control to dictate how the movie progresses. Each choice results in different outcomes in the storyline.

You have two choices: a) proceed to the production and cast list; or b) learn about the origins of “Choose Your Own Adventure.”

A. “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” stars Fionn Whitehead (“Dunkirk”), Craig Parkinson (“Misfits”), Alice Lowe (“Hot Fuzz”) and Will Poulter (“Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”). It is written by Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade.

B. “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were a popular series developed in the early ‘80s originally intended for young adult readers. It was written in the second person with the reader taking on a role relevant to the adventure. Production of these books ended in 1998. Several of the titles revolved around a multitude of genres, anywhere from science fiction to old West tales.

Originally, “Black Mirror” started as a science fiction anthology series developed by the BBC production created by Charlie Booker. Inspired by the original “Twilight Zone,” the series explores controversial and contemporary topics without fear of censorship.

You have two choices: a) find out more about the BBC’s version of “Black Mirror”; or b) learn about how Netflix chose this show as the forerunner for what could become the next streaming phenomenon.

A. In December 2011, BBC debuted “Black Mirror” with the first series consisting of eight half-hour episodes. In February 2013, “Black Mirror” returned for a second season with a twist on reversing the roles of characters. In the first season, the protagonists were all male. In the second, they were all female. Additionally, the themes presented in the first season were then presented in reverse order for the second season. After some financial issues, the third season of “Black Mirror” was relegated to a Christmas special. Due to the financial constraints from the BBC, the creator was forced to find other partners and, after a short bidding war, Netflix won the streaming and licensing rights.

B. “Black Mirror” was eventually released on Netflix after a two-year hiatus, with two new seasons for a total of 20 new episodes combined. Considered a commercial success, several episodes from Netflix-produced seasons won a total of six Emmy Awards. “Bandersnatch” is the first time Netflix used this type of format, and it kept the interactive nature of the show a secret until its final release. Netflix plans future releases of this format that will include children’s animation shows. It works off of downloaded memory (cache) that holds the choices until the movie is restarted.

Utilizing video game software for the “Bandersnatch,” the show gives you options to move the movie forward via prompts onscreen that make the decisions of the main character, essentially making the viewer the protagonist. If you are lost as to how this all works, no worries, there is a nice tutorial that you can watch to help you view the show. By the end, you can make different choices that give you a series of alternate endings. Restarting the film will erase all the previous choices, so be careful.

You have two choices: a) learn about the plot for “Bandersnatch”; or b) learn about the origins of the word “Bandersnatch.”

A. Based in the year 1984, a young programmer takes the concept of “Choose Your Own Adventure” and develops it for a video game format. The purpose of the game is to defeat the Bandersnatch, a monster and main foe of the game. As the creator works the bugs out of the video game under a strict deadline, he becomes frequently depressed. As his mental breakdown continues, he begins to suspect outside forces control his actions. Eventually murder and the final fate of the creator ensues.

B. The word “Bandersnatch” is derived from Lewis Carroll’s 1872 novel “Through the Looking-Glass.” It is the name of a fictional character from the poem “Jabberwocky.” It is described as extremely long-legged with a long tail and the ability to fly and is sometimes camouflaged as a tree.

If you have made it this far, congratulations. While “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is not a unique idea, the platform on which it is displayed is. Time will tell if the format will catch on, but for now it’s a real game of choices.

To reach Brian Fitz-Gerald email him at bfitz-gerald@rosebudmedia.com.

Share This Story