2018, Movies

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018, David Slade)

When I was in Grade 7 or 8, the math/history teacher at my alternative school brought in a man with a bizarre piece of technology. My math/history teacher and the man insisted this technology would change entertainment forever. There was a regular TV, a regular VCR, and what seemed to me like an absolutely gigantic remote control.

The technology was a “choose your own adventure” VHS. If I remember the film correctly, it was set during the War of 1812 or some other point in Canadian colonial times. Every so often a scene would stop and there would be a binary choice. Us kids would shout out the choice and he would press a button. The screen would then go blue as the tape rewound or fast forwarded to the next appropriate scene.

It was completely shocking to me. I really did believe this could be the future. I enjoyed a few “choose your own adventure” mysteries around this time in my life and my brain was full of possibilities.

Fast forward 25 years or so and this technology never happened. I assume it was just too unwieldy or two expensive or ineffective or something. Instead, “choose your own adventure” remained in the realm of video games until about a week ago, when Netflix released an honest to goodness “choose your own adventure” Black Mirror movie. It is, to my knowledge, basically without precedent, except for things like that weird experiment I saw in junior high school.

It’s easy to dismiss this as stunt or merely a live action video game. Other similar innovations – like the all Go Pro shot Hardcore [Henry] – have been dismissed similarly as merely live action video games. But I think that, even without discussing the content, this is a major step forward in the way “movies” and “tv” are presented. I’m not sure it will lead to anything particularly transcendent, but it opens up a world of possibilities and further breaks down the line between passive entertainment like films and conventional books and more active entertainment like games. The next step, to me, feels like a “choose your own adventure” movie or series filmed for VR. At that point the line between the two forms of entertainment may no longer exist.

It’s hard to judge the actual movie, though, because I’ve only played it once, including a few restarts. (Sometimes you restart without getting to an ending.) Whether or not it’s true, it feels like there are a lot of potential endings and, without knowing them, I’m not sure I know what to say about the story, except that this story is about as meta as it gets. (Significantly more meta than even a standard episode of the very meta TV series this comes from.) I can’t say I loved much of the story until the ending I got to, which was pretty funny, but the fact that there is so much potential here makes me rate this much higher than my lack of enjoyment may indicate. (Also, I can “rewatch” this a bunch of times, increasing my enjoyment.)

8/10 because of the can of worms it opens up

PS: It seems my memory was wrong and it was on laser disc. Read more on wikipedia.

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