Okja (2017)

okja poster 2017 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Interesting ideas and good cast with high production value

Could have been explored even more.

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Okja

Studio:  Kate Street Picture Company/Lewis Pictures/Plan B Entertainment

Genre(s):  Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  May 19, 2017 (Cannes)/June 28, 2017 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

okja super pig mija sleeping

Just a girl and her super-pig

In an attempt to stop world hunger and provide a sustainable meat source, a “super pig” contest is held as a PR event by Mirando Corporation president Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) in which the super pigs are sent out over the world to see how they do in the environment.  Ten years later in the jungles of South Korea, Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) and her grandfather (Byun Hee-bong) raise Okja…but the contest is ending.  When personality zoologist Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the Mirando Corporation come for Okja, Mija goes on a rescue mission.  Mija is co-oped by a militant group called the Animal Liberation Front trying to free the super-pigs led by Jay (Paul Dano), and Okja’s well-being is about to become an international incident…Mija just wants her friend back.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Okja is an action-adventure satire drama.  Following Bong’s Snowpiercer in 2013, the film premiered at Cannes and was released on Netflix.  The film received positive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released a version of the film (Criterion #1133).

okja super pig competition tilda swinton

Who wants a super pig BBQ!

I really like Bong Joon-ho, and I have watched his movies since The Host.  I weirdly didn’t watch Okja when it was released.  Netflix and the “small” versions of “big” films didn’t feel like they met the vision of Okja…but Okja does have strength.

The story is both comedic and tragic.  It is both environmentalist and corporate.  No one is really good in Okja except Okja and Mija (even Mija in her mind has to compromise herself at the end).  Greed and the idea that everything if used right can have symbolic significance corrupts and destroys.  While the plan to provide a food replacement is worthy, the path taken and the reason for taking it is wrong.  The same is true of the PETA substitute ALF…it is too razor focused on the idea of “no meat” that it becomes an intentional parody.  The movie bridges satire and drama while still having a lot of action and adventure.

The cast is good.  Ahn Seo-hyun is the young star of the film and holds the film well.  She is surrounded by talented actors like Byun Hee-bong who plays her grandfather and English speaking actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton (in a duel role).  In addition, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Shirley Henderson, and Giancarlo Esposito help round out the cast.                  .

okja slaughterhouse super pig

Meat is meat…let’s eat Okja!!!

Despite not being “real”, Okja itself is a major character.  The completely computer animated Okja has a lot of heart in its eye, but Bong also does a good job making Okja an animal.  Okja often behaves like an animal, but Mija still loves Okja as a “person”.  The film also deals a bit in horror in the idea that these rather sentient creatures can become meat…and that it could be argued for the greater good of the world.

The movie isn’t perfect, but I do love Bong and his vision.  Okja feels like a bit of a diversion from his early work, but it also could be seen as an evolution.  Like the story, “world cinema” is being less and less of a term as the divisions and barriers fall as the world shrinks.  Okja is a solution to the shrinking world, and Okja the movie is a great way to explore it.  Bong followed Okja with the Academy Award winning Parasite in 2019.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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