After months of speculations and a few children’s shows of experimentation, on December 28th, Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. What sets this movie apart from their other movies is the fact that Bandersnatch is an interactive, ‘choose your own adventure’ type of movie. The movie offers numerous choices, several endings, and scenery outcomes. The audience seems extremely satisfied with the latest Netflix experiment, but is the interactive format of the movies really the future of cinema, or are we looking at yet another temporary ‘innovation.’ Before reading into the actual discussion of the topic, make sure to take a look at Edusson essay samples, in case you need some help with writing; these guys offer excellent writing services.
So, let’s be clear; Netflix was not the first to introduce the interactive format to the movie lovers. The first interactive movies had a format of a movie game, or video game that presents its gameplay in a cinematic and scripted manner. First of the kind was Nintendo’s Wild Gunman from 1974. However, in 1967, we actually see the first example of interactive cinema; the movie Kinoautomat was written and directed by Raduz Činčera and was first screened at Expo ’67 in Montreal. The movie featured a live moderator, appearing on stage at certain points to ask the audience to choose between two scenes. Over the course of the next few decades, the world has witnessed several attempts in creating interactive movies, but the truth is, interactive games were the real deal. Therefore, many just abandoned the idea of interactive movies, and for a reason.
Movies aren’t supposed to be interactive, right?
Many movies critics, among them Roger Ebert, believe that the future of interactive movies, especially after the success of Bandersnatch, is rather dim. The reason for that, Ebert explains in his 1994 article, is the fact that we are not supposed to interact with the movies in the first place. Movies are supposed to act upon us, and there is also the issue of the ‘rule of the majority’ if we were to introduce that format to the movie theaters, where hundreds of people would choose at the same time.
Movies, on the whole, are supposed to guide us, showing us what to hear, see, feel and think. By creating interactive movies, we are depriving the movie lovers of the ‘movie immersion’ outside the idea that they are getting immersed by choosing the plotline. Is being interrupted continuously to choose between different option immersion at all, or is it the complete opposite? Sure, the Bandersnatch movie flows seamlessly, not halting even for a second, while the viewer has enough time to choose between options, but the truth is, you need to stay alert throughout the movie, not to say, be able to click at any moment. Sounds like work, not relaxation.
Interactive movies and the illusion of choice
We all know how much work goes into creating a script and a storyline, or even filming and producing a movie. Now, imagine having to create content for an always-splintering narrative, scenes and several movie endings. The amount of work that would go into such a project would be beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Therefore, interactive movies should be taken with a grain of salt; we aren’t really ‘allowed to choose’ between different options; the creators already decided what would be the actual guide for the storyline that is, either way, going to unfold. Hence, the illusion of choice, according to Slash Film.
So, the audience-movie interaction is after all surface level but is also really smart. Netflix used this format to create an excellent stunt and drive attention to their already huge platform. On a more honest note, and many might disagree, Bandersnatch as an interactive movie is quite far from being immersive and entertaining. It is, on the contrary, slightly irritating. The fact that the interactive part of the movie is not even related to the technology, but the storytelling, is also contributing to the ‘irritating’ comment. Netflix simply managed to turn an old idea into a ‘new’ concept for the relatively ‘new’ platform. There is, however, simply nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking regarding Bandersnatch that would put interactive movies on the map in the future of cinema.
Interactive movies and VR technology
Ok, so Bandersnatch might not rely on technology for the interactive aspect, but what if the future movies did. For example, VR technology seems like a logical go-to for creating exceptionally immersive, interactive movies. You would be directly involved in the movie, as you would ‘be in it.’ Of course, there were few attempts in creating VR interactive movies, like My Brother’s Keeper, a VR short movie released in 2017. Even though the movie deemed a great success and a great insight into the future of the cinema, many also believe that VR powered interactive movies won’t become mainstream any time soon. The reason for that is the necessary headset, as many people don’t own one, yet.
However, if I would have to choose between having Bandersnatch type of interactive movies or the VR powered interactive movies, I would go with the latter. It just seems more logical to select a more entertaining option, rather than the Netflix interactive movie format. The VR movies use a combination of novel, prose, and screenplay, as well as a 360 to 180-degree field vision which focuses on the interaction between characters, with you being present in the scenes; is there more one could ask from an interactive movie?
Many do find the Bandersnatch movie exceptionally entertaining, and truth to be told, it is a breath of fresh air in the stale movie industry of the 21st century. But, I don’t see interactive movies, at least Netflix-style movies, becoming a thing any time soon, just like the VR interactive movies. And maybe they shouldn’t even become a thing after all. The old school movie formats have been serving us for almost a century now, so why change something good when we don’t have to.