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Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch receives mixed response from critics

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Dec 30, 2018, 9:44 AM EST (Updated)

On Friday, Netflix’s Bandersnatch introduced viewers to an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure style Black Mirror story that allows you to make decisions impacting the plot that lead to different directions for the movie. Those fans who have already gone through the film, sometimes more than once, have been quick to voice their thoughts on social media, and now the critics are having their say.

Currently Bandersnatch has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics overall enjoying Black Mirror’s attempt to tell an interactive tale. For The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage, the format works and the film “is a masterpiece of sophistication.” Heritage thinks it has its funny moments and calls it a remarkable experience that is more remarkable for its ambitious storytelling.

Liz Shannon Miller of IndieWire gives the movie an A-. Miller describes it as a “deliciously meta interactive experience” that is “hard-to-define, but impossible to forget.”

Meanwhile, IGN thinks Bandersnatch succeeds in its interactive storytelling attempt. David Griffin says that he became increasingly invested in the main character's story and immediately went back to watch it again and make different choices.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a one-of-a-kind interactive experience that takes the best aspects of video games and movies to create a compelling story with multiple narrative permutations,” Griffin concludes.

Not everyone thought the movie was worth the effort, though. To Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter, it ultimately came down to whether “you want to play a game or be told a story.” While he found the interactive nature appealing, the story itself left something to be desired.

“If you like the ability to choose things as mundane as what music Stefan listens to or as important as whether he kills his father then, yeah, Bandersnatch is going to be immediately appealing. But even those curious people — hey, I can control this story — will probably encounter some fatigue at some point once the conceit loses its initial luster,” he said. “Others less inclined to create their own narrative might opt out early once they hit the first signs of being in a loop — which is inescapable because that's precisely what you're in, albeit multiple loops. There's an element of confusion as well in Bandersnatch that has nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with whether you're doing it right. I'm not sure that's the ideal viewing experience.”

Variety’s Daniel D’Addario was even less amused with it, stating the film “as creative work and not as experiment, falls so short of the standard Black Mirror has set that to put it forward is to risk the credibility the series’s first four seasons have earned.”

“Invention solely for its sake is dreary and surprisingly unimaginative; of all the things Black Mirror could be doing, this seems, sadly, to have been the wrong path, one the show would be well served by ditching and starting its story as close to completely anew as it can,” D’Addario said.

Ultimately at Polygon, Austen Goslin saw it as “caught somewhere between a video game and a movie without ever committing to one direction.”

“If what we’re supposed to take away from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is whether or not Netflix’s interactive film's can work, the answer is: probably. Bandersnatch has plenty of fun moments and if the construction weren’t so painfully apparent it might even be exciting to guide a story and its characters along," Goslin said. "In the end, though, the Black Mirror nature of the movie, with its vague questions about the nature of reality and accidentally pointing at its own problems, hold Bandersnatch back from the much more enjoyable film that got lost somewhere in a maze of meaningless choices.”

Bandersnatch is available on Netflix now.

Have you watched Bandersnatch? Let us know what you thought in the comments.