Netflix releases 'morally compromising' interactive Black Mirror episode, Bandersnatch
Netflix just released a new entry of Black Mirror titled Bandersnatch. And, yes, it’s also the eagerly awaited “Choose Your Own Adventure” episode, an innovative format that pairs the haunting, Emmy-winning technology-obsessed anthology drama with a major technological innovation all its own to create Netflix’s first-ever adult-oriented interactive program.
The setup: In 1984, a young computer programmer (Dunkirk‘s Fionn Whitehead) adapts a fantasy novel he loved as a kid called “Bandersnatch” into a computer game and “soon faces a mind-mangling challenge.” Will Poulter, Alice Lowe, and Asim Chaudhry also star.
The “interactive film” (trailer below) went live early Friday and is billed by Netflix as a “morally-compromising adventure” where “you alone are in charge of what happens” and notes “there are choices to be made, challenges to overcome, dangers to encounter and, as always in life (and Black Mirror), consequences to be had. Choosing wisely could lead to triumph while taking the wrong path could end in disaster — but who’s to say what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ anyway?”
According to Netflix, there are more than a trillion different unique “permutations” of the content — “given the number of choices, the unique number of variations (or permutations) are more than a trillion. Note this doesn’t mean there are actually a trillion unique paths or storylines, though.”
Generally, each time through is a 90-minute story with five main endings. Throughout the episode, choices pop up at the bottom of the screen and viewers can pick which path to play using their remote control. According to one report, the film contains a total of five hours of potential play-able footage.
The episode was directed by David Slade, who also helmed the terrific season 4 episode “Metalhead.” The project took 35 days to film — which is even more than the battle sequence in the hugely ambitious Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” episode.
Netflix has experimented with interactive TV before albeit on a much more limited and modest scale. There have been few animated short children’s films such as Puss in Book. The streaming service is reportedly developing a slate of interactive specials to try and bring the format into the mainstream.
Earlier this year, HBO released Steven Soderbergh’s interactive series Mosaic, but the interactive component required downloading a separate app to make it work — whereas viewers can “play” the Black Mirror movie within Netflix using their existing remote control. Other stabs at interactivity over the years include reality shows like American Idol and The Voice where viewers impact the outcome by texting or online voting.
This is the first new Black Mirror content since season 4 was released a year ago. A fifth season has been in production in 2018, yet it’s unclear when the other episodes will be released.
Here’s the Bandersnatch trailer: