Is the Future of Netflix Interactive?
One has to wonder if this is actually going somewhere.
Right around Christmas, Netflix made its first foray into interactive programming with the release of “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” — a sort of choose-your-own-adventure, science fiction film in the popular “Black Mirror” anthology. “Bandersnatch” allows viewers to make decisions for the main character, a young programmer named Stefan Butler who is turning a popular choose-your-own-adventure novel into a video game, at several injection points throughout the film.
After “Bandersnatch” was released, the reviews were — well, lukewarm. Some said that the film “doesn’t quite work as a movie or a game,” that the interactive format “may have a future, but it probably shouldn’t involve ‘Black Mirror.’” The general consensus was that the interactivity felt more like a gimmick than a feature; nevertheless, “Bandersnatch” is currently averaging a 7.3/10-stars on IMDB.com, with more than 85,000 reviews.
Some critics, on the other hand, felt that “Bandersnatch” works. David Griffin of IGN gave the film a rating of 8/10; according to Griffin, the decision points were “smooth and unobtrusive,” adding that they provided the plot with tension.
And now — well, next week — there’s another one. Last week, Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming interactive series, “You vs. Wild,” which is set to debut on the streaming platform on April 10. The show features outdoorsman Bear Grylls, of “Man vs. Wild” fame. (For those unfamiliar with that series, which ran for seven seasons on the Discovery Channel, Grylls and his film crew are left stranded in remote regions. He and his crew must find a way back to civilization.)
In “You vs. Wild,” however, the tables have turned. Grylls relies on your wits and intuition—the viewer’s survival skills—to find his way back to civilization. This is achieved by providing the viewer a variety of several well-timed options: “Jump Down!” or “Climb Up!” and “Eat it!” or “Leave it!”
“I’ve spent my life showing you how to survive in some of the world’s toughest terrains,” Grylls says in the recently-released trailer. “Together, you and I are going to find our way back to civilization.”
From the trailer, it appears that the choices are limited by a timer — which I suspect would create a certain sense of immediacy, urgency and excitement to the experience. Furthermore, the “live-action” feel seems to work a little better with the interactive format than “Bandersnatch’s” cinematic aesthetic.
It appears that all eight episodes of the show’s first season will be released simultaneously on April 10.
Whether “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” worked — or whether “You vs. Wild” works — it appears that Netflix is committed to continuing to experiment with this format. And I believe that, as the technology evolves, there is little doubt that the platform will eventually get it right and develop a hit.
In doing so, Netflix is continuing to exploit one of the many advantages the platform offers over broadcast television.
— Originally Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News, 04/04/19