how to watch bandersnatch

Black Mirror is back with Bandersnatch, a feature-length film with a massive twist: the story invites you to Choose Your Own Adventure. Rather than unfolding in typical linear fashion, Bandersnatch has the viewer select options to further the narrative. Make the wrong choice, and it will cost you. The question is: can this even be classified as a movie? Or is this more like the most elaborate video game ever? And just how does this all work? Below, we offer some tips on how to watch Bandersnatch.

Bandersnatch is set in 1984, following a disturbed young programmer Stefan (played by Dunkirk actor Fionn Whitehead) who “begins to question reality as he adapts a sprawling fantasy novel into a video game and soon faces a mind-mangling challenge.” Since this is set in the Black Mirror universe, you can safely assume weird, wild stuff happens.

But the weirdest element of Bandersnatch is its Choose Your Own Adventure format. In true meta-fashion, the CYOA set-up is built into the storyline – the fantasy novel Stefan is adapting is a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and the options to pick your own path are part of the game he’s designing. It’s clever at first, and then it starts to get a bit tedious, before going full-blown crazy.

Here’s how it works:

  • As you watch Bandersnatch, certain scenes will have Stefan forced to make certain choices. Two options pop up at the bottom of the screen, and the viewer has to pick which one to pursue. Sometimes, the options are mundane (the first decision involves picking which cereal to eat). Sometimes, they’re disturbing (“Bury the body” or “Chop him up”).
  • If you pick the “wrong” choice – that is the choice that doesn’t further the narrative properly, a scenario will unfold, something will go terribly wrong, and you’ll have to go back to the previous scene and pick the alternate option.
  • While you have the option of skipping or reversing ten seconds, the usual fast-forward and rewind options are disabled. There’s no timecode either, which means you have no idea how much longer the film will go.
  • The movie is technically 1 hour and 30 minutes long, but choosing options, and being forced to go back and re-live certain scenes, ends up expanding the running time significantly. All told, around five hours of footage exists. So you might want to clear your schedule.
  • If you decide to sit back and pick neither option, the movie will pick for you. But, in a cheeky, somewhat annoying twist, the movie will occasionally pick the “wrong” option, forcing you to go back anyway.

Your enjoyment of Bandersnatch will likely be tied into how much you enjoy point-and-click style video games. Personally, I grew a bit impatient with the whole endeavor, but your mileage may vary – try it for yourself. We’ll have a full Bandersnatch review for you on Monday.

If you’re still a little confused, here’s a chart which looks mostly accurate.

And here are some “Banderfacts” directly from Netflix.

  • Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is Netflix’s first adult-oriented / live action interactive experience.
  • Number of days it took to film: 35
  • Number of unique permutations: 1,000,000,000,000+*
  • Runtime for default path: Approx 90 mins
  • Number of endings: There are 5 main endings with multiple variants of each…we’re leaving a little mystery here and looking forward to the fans uncovering all of them!
  • Hidden easter eggs: ????
  • Language availability: Subtitled in 28 languages (including English); Dubbed in 10 languages.
  • Device support: Available across most newer devices, including TVs, game consoles, web browser, and Android and iOS devices running the latest version of the Netflix app. It’s not yet supported on Chromecast, Apple TV and some legacy devices. (For those trying to view on an unsupported device, we will have messaging to help direct them to a supported device.)

*This is where all that combinatorial math you learned in grade school comes in handy. 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.

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