Aug 4, 2017

[Movies] Okja (2017) Review

With filmography that brought us Snowpiercer, it's hard to determine what might come next from the likes of Bong Joon-ho. So the last thing I expected was a movie about a super pig. Literally, it's a giant porcine-like creature as the inherent star of the show.

Okja genuinely got me excited given the talent involved and the rather insane marketing that came with this Netflix production. They had Twitter profiles, a Fast Company article and of course a fictional company website set in-universe. So yeah, that's a lot to celebrate.

It's interesting how different this movie feels from some of his other stuff. It definitely has more of a mass appeal given the focus on a younger protagonist. They had some stellar animation for Okja to really give it character. And they had great actors brought together to tell the story in away that really hits home.

It's quite brilliant.

Synopsis: Okja is a 2017 action-adventure movie co-written and directed by Boon Joon-ho together with co-writer Jon Ronson. It competed for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and was publicly released on Netflix.

As a way to turn the reputation of the Mirando Corporation around, new CEO Lucy Miradon (Tilda Swinton) announces that the copy has a new project involving 10 superpigs given to 10 different farmers to raise on their own. It's being as treat as a sort of competition to see which rearing method works out best. It's all to help people forget about their questionable decisions in the past

Ten years later it's time to judge all the superpigs and we are introduced to young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), the daughter of one of these farmers. Over the years she has bonded with their superpig, who they've named Okja. But then Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives representing the Mirando Corporation to evaluate Okja. And as is part of the deal, Okja is to return to Mirando, especially since it's the winning superpig. But Mija isn't ready to let go of her friend and ends up running after her.

What I Liked: The focus on Mija has a character and as the protagonist of this movie gives this whole thing a Studio Ghibli feel but in a live action movie. And it's not just because of visual treatment or anything like that. It goes beyond that as the experience that the team created on the screen is fun, exciting and almost magical at times. The movie has genuine moments of wonder and joy balanced out with some moments of tension and suspense.

The cast is a crazy ensemble of familiar faces doing unfamiliar things. I totally loved what an oddball Jake Gyllenhaal's Dr. Wilcox was and the quirky forces of the Animal Liberation Front were fun in other ways. And man, if you think Lucy Mirando is a zany character, you've only just scratched the surface of things.

And man, Okja is beautifully animated to really feel like a creature standing among the cast and not just some virtual construct added in post.

What Could Have Been Better: The movie does have some pacing issues towards the middle, which is an odd statement since it started a little slow with the montage of Mija and Okja having fun together only to turn into a seemingly futile chase for Mija to try and find Okja against all odds. But there's a lull in the middle that feels like they weren't too sure how to bridge the action sequences.

And I actually wished the movie had more Tilda Swinton in it given how much of the marketing tied to her. She's an amazing actress and I can understand that they didn't want to turn her into some straight up villain counter to Mia and Okja, but more screen time would have been nice.

TL;DR: Okja is a fun little adventure that may inspire one to believe in the beauty of things or at least dissuade you from extra servings of bacon. It has a bit of a message but it's also not too heavy-handed about it as the adventure comes first. Thus the movie gets a great 4 crazy Okja antics out of a possible 5.

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