Over the holidays, in one of those in-between spaces where no one knows the date, day or time, I joined thousands of others in trying out Netflix’s first grown-up choose-your-own-adventure movie – Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
This article may contain spoilers.
The experience left me, like many other turkey and chocolate-filled Netflix fans, impressed but fairly exhausted – I pushed through to try to watch all five of the possible endings, experiencing the laughter, the stress, and the dilemmas.
It also left me at a loss as to how to write about it.
There are reportedly over a trillion possible permutations of the movie. You can watch it in all kinds of directions and arrangements. You can spend 40 minutes watching it (or should I say “parts of” it), or you can spend a couple of hours playing with it.
Almost everyone will experience it in a different way, and in a different order.
And, since there isn’t a single set-out narrative, working out how to review it feels daunting.
In eliminating the passivity and creating an interactive experience in which viewers are involved and culpable, Netflix has created a multi-dimensional piece of art. On top of all the perceptions we bring to our viewing experiences (what we think of the leading actor, the mood we’re in when we watch, what we think of Black Mirror), there are added layers of nuance to each session. Those who finish at the 40 minute mark, seeing that ending, will probably feel different to those who get to watch all five. Those who watch alone will feel differently to those who watch in a group (depending on who was holding the controller).
What I guess I’m trying to say is that no matter how accomplished you might be as a movie reviewer, you can only comment on your own experience of it – no one else’s. After all, you will likely be reviewing a different movie to what your reader will watch.
Each year since Black Mirror came to Netflix, Brandwatch React has crowdsourced reviews of the episodes. Here are two examples, where we look at which episodes were the most spoopy. We just typed in “distressed” terms, like “scared,” “screaming” etc and worked out which episodes had the highest percentage of those terms in their mentions.