Stefan Butler had two options. What type of cereal should he have for breakfast? Should he take a job working for an exclusive video game programmer or work from home? Even more importantly, what should he do with a dead body?
For the first time in Netflix history, these are some deci- sions viewers of the new film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” (2018) get to make. In the interactive, choose-your-own- adventure film, the life of Stefan Butler is under the control of the viewer.
On Dec. 28, the creators of the eerie futuristic TV series “Black Mirror” came out with the exclusive film “Bandersnatch,” directed by David Slade.
The movie follows a young programmer who adapts a disturbed writer’s fantasy novel into a video game. While the film’s plot is not necessarily compelling, it is groundbreaking because its interactive experience is unprecedented in TV content.
While choose-your-own- adventure stories have been around for decades, “Bandersnatch” is the first ever big-budget entertainment piece to let the viewers make decisions on behalf of the protagonist that is not on a gaming platform.
Dr. Brett Biermann, associate professor of emerging media, said entertainment like this was long overdue.
“Interactivity has become a central feature of most technological platforms, so big-budget TV content was inevitably going to go down this road at some point,” Biermann said.
Alyssa Gowling, junior communication sciences and dis- orders major, watched the film with a group of friends.
Gowling said she was impressed by the film and how something as simple as choosing a type of cereal impacted the storyline. She said the storyline was very true to life in this way.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “Bandersnatch” star Fionn Whitehead explained the differences between an interactive film and interactive games.
“You can’t win. All you can do is experience. There are no winners in this. It’s not something you can complete,” Whitehead said.
Gowling also commented on her excitement over an interactive film.
“Sure, games do it, but this is a movie, which makes it kind of revolutionary. This is something you can sit down and do with a bunch of friends and take turns making decisions. It is a fun new twist to any movie night,” Gowling said.
Kate Fuller, junior graphic design major, said she was also influenced by friends and social media to watch “Bandersnatch.”
“I started watching ‘Black Mirror’ two years ago and when ‘Bandersnatch’ came out people said it was blowing their minds,” Fuller said.
Fuller said she admired the technique and attention to de- tail required to create an interactive film.
“The scenes flowed together really well, transitions were crisp and there was no clear separation from what you were choosing and what followed,” Fuller said.
“Bandersnatch” contains five different endings and more than one trillion different storytelling options depending on the choices viewers make throughout the story.
While many are raving about the film, Biermann had some critiques.
“I found the user experience to be pretty seamless, while the story was interesting. But it seems future versions of this type of content could integrate the user-choice function with a more fully developed story line,” Biermann said.
There are many different opinions on how the release of “Bandersnatch” will impact the future of entertainment and how stories are told. Gowling said she believes “Bander- snatch” could be the first in a whole new genre of films.
“They will make more interactive films. However, they’ll have to be careful not to overdo that because that will lose its ‘wow’ factor if it is overdone,” Gowling said.
Biermann explained how the release of “Bandersnatch” could affect the bigger picture of en-tertainment.
“More and more content will be enjoyed alone rather than in group settings through things like virtual reality headsets,” Biermann said.
Fuller said she believes the producers of “Black Mirror” have begun and will continue to pave the path for cutting-edge content in the future with this interactive style.
“The goal of ‘Black Mirror’ has always been to tear down screens,” Fuller said. “I am excited to see how they continue on this creative route of interactive film-making.”
If the film industry follows “Bandersnatch’s” lead, the future of film, including the deci- sions and entire lives of characters, lies in the hands of viewers.