The new Black Mirror movie Bandersnatch is officially available to stream on Netflix now. However, it’s more than just another selection to add to your holiday queue; the film, which was nearly two years in the making, represents Netflix’s first-ever, choose-your-own-adventure release.
Set in 1984, the film follows a programmer named Stefan (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead) as he attempts to turn a childhood adventure novel called Bandersnatch into a choose-your-own-adventure computer game of the same name. He works for a progressive technology company headed by veteran gamer Colin Ritman (The Revenant’s Will Poulter), and like the actual author of the Bandersnatch novel, Stefan nearly spirals into madness while making each and every choice in the process of creating the game.
Bandersnatch’s meta film plot is ultimately what led Black Mirror creators Charlie Booker and Annabel Jones to finally move forward with Netflix’s pitched idea for a choose-your-own-adventure format. The thrilling premise, coupled with Netflix’s all-new Branch Manager script-writing tool allows for viewers to assist Stefan in his mission, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Branch Manager was developed specifically for the film and provides five possible endings. The fastest path to the end of the film, or adventure, runs about 40 minutes, although the average viewing time is 90 minutes. But there’s plenty more to dig through than just those five endings, as even the most minute choice by Stefan and the viewer — such as, “what cereal to eat?” — alters the way the story progresses. In total, there are more than a trillion unique paths possible for Stefan.
“There are lots of potential paths that Stefan’s journey could take and it’s up to you for when you feel sated,” Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. “Going down various branches opens up other potentials, so you may not reach certain things depending on the decisions you make. It’s not a simple branching narrative with lots of binary choices — they are all changing your state and what’s open to you.”
The idea for such a format actually dates back more than two years. In an interview with Variety, the Black Mirror creators said they had considered the storytelling concept while developing “Playtest”, their season three, 2016 episode about video games. Specifically they toyed with what they called a “nightmare mode”, which would play an alternate ending once viewers had reached the conclusion of the episode.
Revisit the Bandersnatch trailer below, then head over to Netflix to watch the full thing.