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Pro-tip: Watch past the end credits
If you're a fan of the director's previous work, especially "The Host," then you won't be disappointed. Even if you're not familiar with his work, you won't be disappointed. If you can get past the slight weirdness of this movie (which might not fit everyone's taste), I can promise you that you won't regret watching this.
There is no much to say about it but to give it a shot and enjoy it. 9/10.
It makes you think about many things, specially the treatment with have with animals and the relationship with our food consumption.
This film has great production, Acting and covers the rampant corruptness in many of our cultural accepted norms. (even the "Animal Liberation Front" shows some corruption, patterned obviously after PETA)
Great Film, Well done. (NETFLIX is competing with the big boys at a fraction of the cost) Glad to see films like this finding the light of day.
Go See It, especially if you are a animal lover and/or sympathizer
Bong Joon-ho begins the film in 2007 when the CEO of a food corporation that is heavily invested with GMO's tries to revamp their corporate image by announcing a competition between 26 of their best super piglets. The super piglets are sent across the world to be raised by farmers and in ten years one lucky pig will win the title of Best Super Pig (and then apparently be consumed). Fast forward to 10 years later when a thirteen year old Mija, a country girl living in near isolation with her grandfather, is raising her super pig in the idyllic landscape where they play, forage for apples, and fish together. Things go awry however when she discovers that Okja (her pig) does not belong to her and will be carted off to America. From here on the movie turns into an adventure story as Mija must brave the world in order to be reunited with Okja.
The film is wildly cartoonish in tone, but if you go along with it and let yourself be enchanted by this world you'll find yourself on a wonderful emotional journey. Some cheap CGI made me at first scoff at Okja, but as the movie goes on she seems more and more real till by the end I was near tears watching the film. Great performances by known and unknown actors alike. Just a great movie through and through.
It snuck up on me. Lulled me into an understated, Disneyfied stupor. But there is so much more to this move. (I may even renew my Netflix subscription based on it).
I see many complaining about the ham acting of Tida and Jake... but their caricatures serve to emphasize the understated Mija. It is a cultural contrast as well as a social commentary on the all American way of greed is good and the truth is whatever the men with the deepest pockets say it is. Maybe these lampoons ARE how quieter cultures see Americans?
And there are no pretty platitudes to tie it up. We are left feeling helpless, hopeless and not at all happily ever after. Can we in good conscience, rejoice in the freedom of one giant pig (and piglet), while the rest are tragically left behind to be slaughtered?
Opens up many more questions than it answers. A conversation starter. A meat-lovers emetic. A brave and beautiful delight.
Seo-Hyun Ahn is wonderful as Mija, Okja's loving companion, and the first 30 minutes or so that focuses on their relationship is the strongest material here.
Unfortunately, the other performances are all over the map. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-worst performance as a "wacky", perpetually drunk, borderline psychotic television host, and he alternates between channeling Jerry Lewis at a 10 and what I can only assume is one of the prisoners from Silence of the Lambs. It absolutely doesn't work at all, comedically or narratively, and he is the very, very, very low point of an otherwise enjoyable ride, completely at odds with the rest of the film. How the studio, filmmakers or actors watched this excruciatingly cartoonish performance and found it remotely acceptable is staggering, but it's a Razzie slam-dunk if I've ever seen one and it severely detracts from the overall experience.
The surreal, eccentric subplot about Tilda Swinton's character and her corporate empire fares slightly better in that it is never cringe-inducing, but still feels at odds with the tone of the Okja-Mija relationship, which is perhaps the only part of the story played relatively straight, for the better.
The film doesn't dance around its unsubtle messages about animals, factory farming and GM foods, to say the least. Some might be taken aback or even appalled at the unapologetic hardcore animal liberation themes, which include graphic, uncomfortable scenes of sadistic animal abuse, and even holocaust allusions. Holocaust allusions in a kid's adventure movie, you say? Welcome to Okja. Did I mention the film is rated R?
Still, if you can be forgiving of some truly curious decisions about tone and plotting, you'll probably enjoy Okja - the best parts of the film, like the heartfelt Okja-Mija relationship and a handful of riveting, beautifully put together action sequences, are so good that it makes the less successful choices more palatable. As of now I'd give it a 6.5 or so, but editing out Jake Gyllenhaal's atrocious performance would automatically bump it up a whole number.
Bong delivers one of Netflix's better high profile original films in "Okja," a quirky yet topical yet big-hearted film. Similar to Bong's 2006 breakout film "The Host," a monster movie about a doltish dad who will do anything to rescue his daughter, "Okja" plays to family themes (a girl and her pet) but presents them through a mature, adult lens (corporate greed, environmentalism, genetic science).
So the context of "Okja" is complicated, but the story is quite simple and human. 14-year-old Mija (An Seo-hyun) has lived with her grandfather on a mountainside farm in South Korea for most of her life with Okja, a super pig gifted to the farm by Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) and the Mirando Corporation as part of a competition to develop the pigs as a non-GMO food source to help fight hunger. When the corporation and super pig judge Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) come to collect, Okja is clearly the finest of the super pigs in the world, and they endeavor to take her to New York City. Mija follows them to Seoul and attempts to get her friend back, coming up against the corporation and a group of animal rights activists, all of which have different agendas for Okja.
Hilarious and deeply disturbing, violent but also quite warm, Bong has created another distinctive film that makes him one of the most interesting filmmakers that not enough people are talking about. The mixed bag of tones will certainly turn off viewers who aren't sure what to do with a film that doesn't fit in any one neatly labeled genre box, those with an open mind will appreciate the way he tells extremely accessible stories that address complicated themes.
Okja means a lot of things to a lot of people: friendship and stability to Mija; money, science and reputation to the Mirando Corporation; injustice and corporate greed to the animal liberation group; and affordable food to the masses. The plot is essentially these competing interests sorting themselves out.
Part of what makes "Okja" distinctive is the caricaturized supporting roles that make everything feel just a shade unusual. As she did in Bong's last film, "Snowpiercer," Swinton so effortlessly creates a wildly larger than life character portrait that simultaneously feels grounded in reality. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is infuriatingly grating as the eccentric loose cannon TV personality, but his character is a signal to the audience of how to look at and think of the world of the film.
Bong has such a specific perspective on society that comes through in way subtle and not in "Okja." He brilliantly whittles the story down to one pivotal moment at the end, and the outcome of all this chaos suggests he's neither pessimistic nor optimistic. Perhaps he would argue that it's not his business to come down one way or another, but simply to use a giant hippo-like pig to at least prove that our world is majorly – and maybe unnecessarily – complicated
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It isn't so much as an anti-meat film despite some of the plot points presented (even with an inclusion of an Animal Liberation Front group). The subject of the film is this super-pig hybrid which is supposed to serve as a revolutionary change in the meat industry. Just like the animal, this film is a cross-breed of different genres, it is a satirical movie at first, then turning into an adventure film, and, once it moves to the third act, becomes a poignant view of the relationship between a young Korean girl and her pet. This clash of genres don't always mix well, but I personally thought that the film was really effective in trying to engage its viewers into the story and into the journey of this young girl going through a personal transformation as she realizes that corporations and media aren't always as innocent as they seem. Even the design of the super-pig is superb, it feels real and tangible and it doesn't overdo the CGI, which is great.
The performances across the board are fantastic. Among those that stand out are Ahn Seo- hyun, who really is the underdog protagonist of the film, Tilda Swinton, the head of the expensive industry, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who puts sort of a quirky and charismatic magic into his character, Dr. Johnny Wilcox. The first half of the film is excellent, while the second half didn't really do a good job of tying all the subplots together, so some of the narratives really fell loose during the end. I did like what turned out of Mija and Okja, but I wanted to see some resolution for the other narratives, especially the Animal Rights group led by Paul Dano's character.
Okja is a great spectacle, combining enough weird lopsidedness to it while still feeling realistic in a dystopian, sci-fi, coming of age style. I did like how Joon-Ho tackled issues of corporate capitalism, but this film could've improved on how it transitioned between genres and on how the tiny narrative coincided together at the end. Having that said, Okja is still worth a watch; it is surprisingly funny, eye-opening, and personally one of the best Netflix has to offer currently.
If you understand his style and knack for subtle commentary, then you will see this as another excellent film in the same vein as The Host.
The obvious commentary is clear but not overwhelming and the subtle bits are in true Bong style. I think many may misinterpret some of his choices, particularly with Gyllenhaal's character and performance, but if you grasp Bong's social and political stances then you'll appreciate the choices.
For anyone who is unaware, all of Bong's movies contain certain elements. There are the overt elements that include humor (sometimes within the least humorous of situations), suspense, emotional connection, the folly of man and a lack of responsibility on the part of a government or corporation. But these elements are supported by subtle inclusions which are dotted throughout his movies like little watermarks and always serve to say the things that should be said without saying them.
Besides these factors, and for those less inclined towards analytical movie watching, there is always a great story and magnificent cinematography. Okja is no exception.
The only disappointing aspect of this movie is that it just came out, I've already watched it and now I'll have to wait another 2-3 years for another Bong movie to enjoy. I have seen The Host at least 10 times and I could watch it again right now. I'm certain to see Okja at least two more times with those with whom I enjoy seeing his movies and I don't think it'll feel like a chore either. In my opinion, Bong is one of the most consistent filmmakers to have ever made a movie and that streak remains unbroken with Okja.
Okja is a film with many different purposes. Unfortunately, it never really gives any of these purposes the lead. They are blended into a painful two hours of clichéd characters, terrible scripting, weak social statements and constant changing tones. It's hard to really understand which part of the movie drives the narrative.
One of the tones and themes of the film is that our society and its companies are vicious murderers of those poor pigs, each of which is genetically modified and then slaughtered concentration camp style for those awful human consumers. Well, this is life folks, and I promise you that a slaughterhouse is far worse than what you see on film. Is the film anti- meat, or is the meat production business just incidental to the story line? We really don't know. And, just as a side note, if our protagonists are to save the animals from human consumption, how is it that the little girl, our central character, plucks a fish out of the stream in the early part of the film and serves it for dinner? If this movie had any substance, I would have said that the fish scene was planted there for irony. But, it wasn't.
As for the rest of the film, some of film's best talent were assembled to portray characters that are predictable and clichéd, and the actors were given really bad dialog. It was amateur hour throughout the film. There were no surprises, and those "tear jerker" moments that other reviewers keep sniffling over were barely any kind of emotional triggers.
On a plus side, the CGI animal effects truly brought our pig characters to life, and the audience "buys" the super pig as being real. But, let's be real. Pigs, even genetically modified super pigs don't cry. They don't understand humans (this one understood both English and Korean), and they don't wave goodbye to their offspring that get saved from slaughter. Sure, you will say that the pig emotions are symbolic, however, symbolism isn't achieved by making these film pigs emotional creatures.
Anyway, in the end, when I read all the rave reviews of this film, I feel like the guy at the art show staring at a white canvas that some famous artist has splashed with a brush of black paint.. The people around me marveling at how the painting represents life, the universe and everything...and all I see is a white painting with some black paint spilled on it.
The bad: This script needed a few more passes — and a harsher editor — before it went into production.
The movie aims to be a sharp satire of corporate greed and gung-ho animal rights activism, but its satirical knife is dull. It has nothing perceptive or unexpected to say about any of its characters, and little wit to say it with.
Satirizing the amoral executives should be like shooting fish in a barrel, but their dialogue sounds like a 14 year old's idea of corporate-speak. Satirizing the gonzo animal rights activists should likewise yield some loving farce, but the movie is so thoroughly of their party it finds itself unable to laugh at them for long and instead meanders into hagiography.
Good satire comes with an "aha" moment, when in the midst of laughter we find ourselves face to face something surprising and uncomfortable, but so viscerally true it is undeniable. This movie does not have that. All of its shots at uncomfortable truth feel familiar, and tired. Both its thin humor and its disturbing visuals are built of tropes, not insights.
The two wonderful main characters can't save this film. Its final destination is ham-handed vegan propaganda, with neither the levity nor the surprise to make that propaganda hit home for anyone who doesn't already subscribe to it.
Which is a shame: the movie is reaching for hard truths about greed, food production, and the harm people do by forcibly imposing their moral compass on others. Somewhere in this phony script is a much better movie that actually manages to grasp those truths.
**SPOILS** One thing I really don't get is the bad guy, in the end, giving the girl her pig for money. No way her genetically mutated pig is worth less than that small gold statue. Given that THEY refused to sell them to anyone and only rented them out but in the end, she decides it's OK to just sell the animal? I MEAN none of this would have happened. You can't just say "company" doesn't want to sell the pig only wants to rent them but in the end, the company now does want to sell the pig. It is just so stupid. This whole story is so flustered with issues. Like the "ALF" they needed to make some high-tech device to sneak in using this girls 'pig' but near the end, they walk right in. No guards and the door wasn't even locked you're telling me that they have this much trouble getting into these guys buildings when a little girl managed to do it with little to no effort. God this movie has a sin counter of over 9000!
It's as simple as that, and very reminiscent of Hollywood and films like SHORT CIRCUIT at times. However, OKJA plays out as a zany comedy for the most part and it just isn't at all funny. It feels like a silly kid's film complete with fart and poo jokes and the like but there's swearing and violence throughout, so tonally it's all over the place. As usual, the Korean stars outclass their Western counterparts time and again. Tilda Swinton returns from SNOWPIERCER and is dreadful in a dual role, but Jake Gyllenhaal is even worse with his over-the-top turn and I cringed with embarrassment to see him like this. Shirley Henderson plays the same role she's been playing for decades while Paul Dano veers between creepy and comatose. THE WALKING DEAD's Steven Yuen is better, but he needed more screen time. The other problem I had with OKJA is that I didn't find the titular creature to be either endearing or convincing, despite the best efforts of the CGI animators.
Things are not made any better by the titular pig's teenage patron who (for unclear reasons) is played by a one-note Korean child actor with such monotonic obsession that her friendship with the pig only looks worrying.
If something positive is to be said about this misfire then it is that the pig is well animated and integrates with its surroundings seamlessly, but its design has no personality and cannot sustain sufficient feelings to care about its fate.
Is it a message movie? Is it about the evil of GMOs? Because the pig-thing is the best thing in the movie, and I want one. Is it about the evil of carnivores? Nothing shows us anything but that animals die to give us meat. We knew that.
Nothing good happens here, don't waste your time, and don't let your kids see it.