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Cine-Men: The choice is yours with ‘Bandersnatch’

What is a choice, do we really have choices? Did you pick up this paper and choose to read this, or was it simply meant to be?  This is what we here at Cine-Men are choosing to discuss with the Netflix special “Bandersnatch.”

The year is 1984 and we follow Stefan Butler, young video game programmer and new hire at Imagine Software, who is tasked with adapting an old, choose-your-own adventure book called “Bandersnatch” into a new game. We follow Butler’s story of past trauma, long nights of coding and occasional, seemingly hallucinogenic states through a series of choices.

Choices that we, the viewers, make for Butler through on-screen, intense, claustrophobic promptings. Some choices are big and some small. But the narrative slowly changes and twists. Is it Butler making the choices, or is it us? Why are there choices? Why those specific choices, and why not something else? Do the choices even matter? Should Butler pick Sugarpuffs, Frosties or just jump out of a skyscraper window?

All of these can be answered through the feature’s multitude of endings, or perhaps none of them were answered at all. It’s your choice.

Bandersnatch was met with mostly positive reviews, some praising it, some criticizing its delivery method. While I can’t mention how much money this feature has made, as it’s just a single title on Netflix, I can mention an interesting development going on at the time of writing. Netflix is being sued to the tune of $25 million by the company Chooseco who owns the trademark on “choose your own adventure” empire.

How this will pan out remains to be seen; that’s the court’s decision, after all. Or should I say, if I’m going to keep running with this theme—their choice to make.
My Take:

While it is no mistake to say I liked Bandersnatch, I didn’t love it. After all, loving a piece of entertainment means being able to watch it repeatedly and feel the same thing every time. Which, I think, ironically fits Bandersnatch. No, I didn’t watch it repeatedly out of love or admiration. I watched it to write this column! I was forced to see the results of my choices.

I was able to have Stefan pick what cereal he wants for breakfast, whether to throw tea at his computer or if he should jump out a window and many more. But, as with every Black Mirror product, Bandersnatch has a grim outlook on choice, which I think is only for the pessimistic. Although, that’s my own philosophy drifting into my movie review. Now, did Bandersnatch make for good entertainment?

While the idea of meta-narrative and subversion of choice are nothing new by any means to the science fiction world, they are still much appreciated by this nerd who likes to read too much into narrative works. From its countless Easter Eggs of other Black Mirror episodes, to its references to other fictional works, Bandersnatch is never the same after the first viewing. I rate it a 7.5/10 trip through the looking glass.


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