by: Alice Morgan
This is Cornelius (Corny), the Little Yellow Ninja. He is here to warn you about mature content. You have been warned.
The movie begins with a sickly-sweet, cutesy presentation about how this mega meat corporation (Mirando) found a special pig in a middle of nowhere ranch. They managed to reproduce 26 of these pigs by “non forced, natural mating.” (Haha) They expect these super pigs to revolutionize meat production, because they consume less food, produce less waste and expect to taste better than the average beef or pork. Now, that’s already a mountain of stupid right there, but don’t worry, it gets worse.
The company decides to hold a contest. They send 26 piglets to 26 countries and give them to farmers who will raise them with traditional farming techniques unique to their region. The best and most beautiful pig will win… in 10 years.
Now, that marks the first five minutes of the movie. I would expect the viewer to have many questions by this point — I certainly did. One important thing we learn is that everybody inhabiting this universe is a moron, because people actually believed this blatant lie.
If Mirando wants to stick to their story about naturally breeding pigs, how do they expect to feed billions of people? Remember, at this point there are only 26 pigs, and they will be raised separately in different countries… for a decade… You would think that when they eventually turn up with 26 million pigs, someone would be like, “So, how did this happen?”
Anyway, we fast forward 10 years and we meet Okja who is a super pig entrusted to a Korean farmer. The farmer’s granddaughter — Mija — forms a bond with Okja and… sigh, you know where this is going. This movie does not contain epic plot twists. We spend an agonizing ten minutes of Mija playing with the pig, just so the movie can establish that they have a special bond. This ten minute includes a scene where Mija tries to pull the 10 ton pig across a narrow mountain path. Unfortunately, neither of them die and the movie continues.
The supporting cast
The day finally comes; Okja is taken away and we meet some of the most irritating characters in the story.
Mundo Park. Must be a common Korean name… He fills the role of businessman and comic relief.
Jennifer. She is really annoying. That pretty much sums up her entire character. Also comic relief.
Grandfather. Not a comic relief, just sad. There is a painful scene where he gets into an argument with Mija. It’s by far the worst scene in the entire movie. I’m not sure what direction the actor got, but he is so over the top and awkward that it was hard to take him seriously.
Jay. ALF leader, animal lover. He was supposed to be the rational, calm and intelligent character in the story. Head of the operation: the one who got the smarts. Unfortunately, he delivers dialog like a psychopathic mass-murderer, so he doesn’t come through as a very likeable character either.
However, neither of these people can live up to the legend of cringe: Dr. Johnny Wilcox, face of Mirando corporation and full-time cartoon mascot.
Mija is determined to rescue Okja. She does. They meet some friendly terrorists who abduct them. The group’s name is A.L.F. as in Autistic Lying Fu… I mean the Animal Liberation Front. They free animals from abuse. Naturally, they set out to help Okja in order to bring awareness to the masses.
The Animal Liberation Front
ALF is probably the worst thing in this movie. which is pretty bad considering that they are supposed to be the heroes we look up to. They dress like terrorists, behave like terrorists and they have this funny quirk where they threaten to kill someone by shoving a gun into their face and tell them not to worry. “Haha, I’m totally chocking you into unconsciousness but don’t worry, I won’t kill you. It’s a non-lethal choke hold after all! Nothing to worry about! We are so harmless, lolz.”
Just because you don’t kill someone doesn’t mean it’s OK to hurt them. I would suggest —if you can help it — to avoid causing people lifelong psychological damage. ALF claims to stand against animal abuse but they gladly use violence against others. Having no regard for human life shouldn’t be celebrated. Violence shouldn’t be celebrated. There is nothing heroic about their actions, and endorsing this type of behavior is wrong. The movie tries so hard to make ALF appear honorable, by having their own code of honor and asking for consent; too bad it’s only a charade and ironically, they are not any better than the “evil” corporation they fight against.
Jay, K, Blond, Red, Silver. These are the names of the ALF’s members. Was “Steve” not rad enough for you? You could have called at least one of them “Mike”. That’s a freebee; being American, it is statistically improbable that at least one of them is not called “Mike”. I’m aware that these names are probably not displayed on their birth certificates, however, this unusual naming convention clashes with the movies intended tone.
When you decide to make a movie, it is helpful to sit down and think about what type of movie are you making. Is it going to be a social commentary that was intended for serious discussion, or is it going to be a fun, animal adventure with poop jokes? Who is the intended audience? I think it is safe to say that they set out to make a more mature film. Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t include humor, but it needs to be moderate enough to preserve the perspective. Focus is important. Even the poor actors can’t tell what type of movie they are in. Some of the characters give a more serious performance, like Glenn (Steven Yeun), Mija and the terrorist gay couple, while the rest of the cast think they are Disney villains and get their inspiration from Cruella de Vil and Maleficent. In conclusion, the slap stick doesn’t fit the narrative, and the result is a disturbing mess.
The CGI hippo
There is no reason for the CGI “pig”, other than to add a magical element to the story and to push it towards a more kid friendly, ET like adventure. Using an actual pig or a cow would have given it more heart, making it more relatable. Again, we are talking about other major topics such as animal experiments, GMO and gene editing. Was it necessary to touch on these topics besides the ones that are already in the movie? Even if the answer is “yes”, there is still no need for a fake CGI nightmare, since these dangers could have easily been demonstrated on any other type of animal.
Also, Okja is not a pig. The closest pig I could find that looks somewhat similar to Okja is called the babirusa, but even that is a stretch.
I haven’t heard such a mismatched soundtrack since they played Californication at the end of Death Note. Music generally improves movies, it brings the picture to life, filling the viewer with a deep sense of awe, heart-wrenching sorrow, or the thrill of being alive. This movie however managed to do the exact opposite and made me question if the production crew was indeed high when they made this.
Let’s start at 44:00. Chase scene in the mall. Que Easter European party music. Based on later efforts I wager they were looking for something that matches the slap stick — because this scene should be funny — but they were also going for something to do with the circus. Around 46:40 we transition to “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. Again, this is supposed to be funny.
(I actually just noticed this, but at 48:20 one of ALFs grabs the crutches of a stranger and blocks a door with them. What a hero. This is followed by an other ALF pouring marbles(?) on the ground to stop the police from chasing them. Marbles… I rest my case.)
At 58:30 there is another strangely optimistic instrumental with chimes. The next time we hear music again is at 01:07 and… it’s bouncy? Where the hell did they get these from, shittysoundtracks.com? If it would be traditional Korean music I would understand. It wouldn’t fit either, but I could make some connections at least.
There is this scene where Mundo is running after the ALF truck. Okja poops. Mundo is covered in poop. I know ha-ha, hilarious. BUT WAIT! He calls his wife TO ASK what kind of soap do they have at home. I think, unless they have soap that smells like shit he should be covered.
One of the benefits of super pigs is that they produce less waste, and yet, they managed to sneak not one, but two poop jokes in the movie.
If you are going to comment on police brutality and corruption, at least take the effort to research what a police officer looks like. It’s insulting.
ruined swearing for me
I’m a fond of swearing. It is a form of self-expression and often helps to relieve stress. Swearing is against censorship and authority; it stands for the freedom of speech and progress and — besides everything I just listed — it is fun! Most of my favorite comedians swear extensively, and it’s glorious! However, one must be careful. You can’t swear all the time, otherwise you come across as an uneducated fuck. There needs to be a balance, and a sense of comedic timing is also helpful. This movie has none of these things and yet they insist on swearing all the time. It’s a cringe overload.
How could it be improved?
If you want a social commentary on how corporations are evil don’t pick a meat company as the antagonist. It will distract from the message and people will argue about how eating meat is evil. Actually, you can tell how the movie fails terribly in this regard when you read the comments and reviews. People can’t decide what the movie is about. That’s because it’s about everything and nothing at the same time. It tries to say so much, but in the end it says nothing.
By far, the best thing that came out of this movie was actress Seo-Hyun Ahn, who played Mija. Her performance was the most convincing, which is even more incredible considering that most of the time she was playing with a CGI hippo.
But… I saw positive reviews for this movie…
Yeah me too. It made me question the reality I live in. That’s why this review ended up being a 2000 word essay.
A lot of people felt a connection with this movie because they thought it represented some sort of truth, or the essence of something to be considered true; something so universal that everybody can stand behind it. It was certainly vague enough to feel that way. Okja tried to tackle topics that could be separate movies on their own, and the experience is overwhelming. There are people calling out others, saying how stupid they are for not understanding that the movie is about evil corporations and consumerism. Well, so Is the Lorax. Or Baby Geniuses. It doesn’t mean they are good movies, nor that they do a good job at arguing their point… and if the movie is about lazy consumerism, with lazy writing, acting, and terrible characters, then maybe the joke is on them?
your review is causing me grief and sadness…
I did start with a trigger warning. On that note, It wasn’t my intention to piss anyone off. I simply had to get this out of my system as a form of therapy. I can’t afford a therapist, you see. College and all…
This could be a fun movie to watch with a small group of friends… and a drink or two… if you really, really want to watch it. I saw it with my brother and we were laughing the whole time. Except when they were breaking the pigs’ neck. That was fucked up.
If you suffered through this movie by yourself, I can only hope that — in a small way —I helped you on your journey to recovery.
I wish your dreams to be free of miracle hippos.
and full of bacon.