South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho has become an international sensation. His 2014 hit Snowpiercer is one of the best post-apocalyptic films in recent memory. It had a talented, diverse cast, strong action, marvelous visuals, and a message with an Orwellian touch. His new film, Okja (which released on Netflix June 28), is unlike your average monster flick. Despite the gifted cast, the results are quite underwhelming.
Mija (An Seo Hyun) is a young girl living with his grandfather (Byun Hee-bong) in the beautiful South Korean countryside. Her only priority is taking care of a “super pig” named Okja. One day, wacky zoologist Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a crew of his television show come to do a segment on this stunning creature. However, Mija learns the truth on what is happening with Okja.
Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), the CEO of Mirando Corporation, constructs a plan to use the super pigs as food. Why? “Because they need to taste f***ing good,” she says during the opening scene.
Meanwhile, Mija goes to New York City where a festival is about to take place. She must save her only friend before it’s too late.
There is a great message about the environment and the livestock industry. But—the film’s satire and beauty fall apart after the first hour. It’s hard to determine what the audience is aiming towards. The tone is inconsistent throughout; ranging from childish and innocent to dark and upsetting. Although the movie is rated TV-MA, there are times in which the movie is too childish for adults. Swinton stands out from the rest of the cast (she is a chameleon!), while it seems like Gyllenhaal is doing his best impression of Jim Carrey as the environmentalist in In Loving Color. It gets annoying after a while.
Okja is the second movie this year in which it (ironically) uses John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”. Case in point, the song is used in a wonderful scene where Mija attempts to save Okja in Seoul until being picked up by the Animal Liberation Front, an animal activist group, led by Jay (Paul Dano). Other than that, I’m not a big fan.