Netflix’s original movie curse has been broken by a modern day E.T
It was a long time since Netflix made a good original movie. Beasts of No Nation was supposed to start a new era of theater-quality movies you can watch on your own TV or computer and what came next were mediocre films not worth anyone’s time. With Netflix’s Cannes entry finally available to everyone, it revamps once again how we see movies. Okja is daring, stylish and original, a kind of movie that is too risky for blockbusters today.
The world is running out of meat and it needs a quick answer. Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), owner of the Mirando Corporation, has created a new species of pigs which they call Super Pigs. Their promise is that these pigs are eco-friendly, GMO-free, and taste delicious. However, when they want to take Okja, Mija’s (Ahn Seo-hyun) pet Super Pig, she’ll do what it takes to save her animal companion from becoming someone’s meal.
There are many things to admire in Okja and on the surface, it seems like an easy sell. Okja feels very much like a modern day E.T as it follows the relationship between a young girl and her monster. However, Bong Joon-ho adds many other layers both narratively and stylistically which makes it a daring movie. The stylistic choices are impressive and add depth to the dystopian world. The cinematography makes the world look incredible and every places our main character travels is visually stunning.
When a world works this well, it only takes one element to destroy it. The enormous CGI Super Pig could have kept the film from feeling from this world. Surprisingly, the Super Pigs look incredibly realistic and moves like a real animal. Okja felt like a mix between a pig and a pet dog. His relationship with Mija is believable and everyone with a pet will relate.
Narratively, Okja refuses to follow the traditional plot points making it unpredictable. There never is a moment where you can see what’s coming next and that makes it a joy to watch. It’s not hard to see how a film like this is stripped away from its theatrical release given its original and daring nature.
As much as I admire Okja‘s originality, it tries to juggle too many different tones and genre to medium success. It’s an action, comedy, drama, and thriller all at the same time while shifting between sad, happy, thrilling, and comedic moments. There are moments where Okja literally poops on people and then cuts to a heartfelt scene between Mija and Okja.
Although this is a story about Mija and Okja, the A-listers, Swinton and Gyllenhaal, are an integral part of this story. However, their characters feel disconnected from the world as they are overacting to a fault. The loud, expressive almost caricature-like performances feel odd next to Seo-hyun’s more reserve and heartfelt performance. And while I did get that their characters are supposed to be victims of a greedy corporate world, it almost never translated well to the world of the film.
Nevertheless, Okja manages to deliver its powerful message of animal cruelty and environmental crisis. It opens an ethical discussion about what is on our plates and how it gets to our plate. It will no doubt rattle animal lovers, vegan, vegetarians and climate change activist who have been fighting against the meat industry long before this film. Surely, this oddball film will help the individuals fighting for the cause and
While Okja isn’t the tour de force Netflix was hoping, it still offers the daring original movie the subscription needed for a long time. It’s original, fun and weird offering a roller coaster ride filled with various emotions. Even though, the big name talent’s bizarre performances and some failed tonal shifts, Okja is still the cute, feel good movie you were hoping for.
Okja is available on Netflix starting June 28.