Netflix has delivered the most heavy-handed message that I have seen in a long time with its recently released feature “Okja“. A big conglomerate tries to fix its image with the new initiatives created by its freshly appointed CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, “Doctor Strange“, “Chronicles of Narnia“). The “discovery” (spoiler: we learn later that in fact they were genetically engineered) of a rare breed of super pig becomes the focus of the Mirando Company’s push to raise their stock in the public eye, the animal being the supposed answer to the worlds starvation issue. The Mirando Company ,in an effort to keep their good press going, creates a contest surrounding these super pigs that will keep the company in the public’s eye garnering them even more good faith with the people for the next ten years. Each piglet is given to a farmer with the explicit instruction for them to use ways of responsible farming handed down to them to raise the animal. Ten years later, the story picks up, focusing on one of these super pigs and his human companion, Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn, “The Housemaid“). When “Okja” the super pig is confiscated due to an incident that could potentially ruin the company’s image the CEO decides to turn this around and use it as a PR grab. “Okja” is then taken back to the U.S. where Mirando plans a big reunion with Okja’s friend, Mija. Enter an animal rights group and the mayhem ensues. This is also where the message of the movie takes a turn from heavy-handed to disturbing. The misadventure moves us quickly from a warehouse lab to a PR inspired parade to a failed rescue attempt by the animal rights group and eventually to a meat-packing plant all in a span of 2 hours that felt like an eternity.
With a cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko“, “Everest“), Giancarlo Esposito (“The Jungle Book“, “Money Monster“), Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead“), Lily Collins (“To The Bone“, “The Mortal Instruments:City of Bones“) and Paul Dano (“Swiss Army Man“, “Looper“) this movie should have been better than it was. The overly satirical almost comedic way the script was written detracted from the serious topic that “Okja” was trying to tackle. The over the top caricature’s of the entire cast’s roles would have been better suited for a spoof movie not one that is dealing with the very real conversations being had about GMO capitalization on the world starvation issue. There is almost nothing that “Okja” does right except for one bright spot, one small ray of sunshine, and that was the character rendering, conceptual design and the compositing of the super pig “Okja“. The visual effects company that created the beast actually did a really good job of compositing the beast into live actions shots and created a lovable creature to pull at our heart-strings. However, I still finished this movie horrible disappointed, a little offended and slightly disturbed, so if that sounds like a good time for you check it out.