Yay for Giant Hippo-Pig Trailers: Bong Joon-Ho’s “Okja”

Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho is not subtle when it comes to the themes of his films, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Snowpiercer isn’t so much an allegory for class warfare – it is class warfare, just set on the science fiction environment of an ever-moving train.  The Host is the venerable monster-movie warning that our careless destruction of the planet will come back to bite us – literally in this case.  And so, Okja continues in that same vein.  This Netflix exclusive will compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and then will be available for streaming on June 28th.

Check out the trailer below:

Here, we meet Okja, the first of a breed of genetically-enhance pigs, and his young caretaker Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun).  Okja is a playful giant, and seems to enjoy romping around the countryside as the CEO of Mirando Corporation (Tilda Swinton) delivers a press conference about the miracle that is Okja in voice over.  Then, in an abrupt shift of tone, we learn that Okja was bred to be food, and there are tons of people who are not so keen on that, including an animal right’s activist played by Paul Dano and (according to Wikipedia), a “zealous zoologist” played by Jake Gyllenhaal, which are my two favorite alliterations.

This trailer has all the hallmarks of a Bong film.  The tone volleys between playful and horrific, transitioning between the two with the elegance of a whiplash.  Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Bong is quite adept at this kind of tonal dissonance, and he has used it to great effect in his previous films.  There’s the clear thematic element, this time focusing on the morality of raising animals for food.  There’s also a stunning cast, including a Prisoners reunion for Gyllenhaal and Dano and the ever-amazing Swinton, who seems to be becoming a Bong regular.  Something something Gus Fring.  (It’s important to reference Breaking Bad as often as possible).

At this point, I’ve only one reservation about Okja, and that is the CGI for the eponymous pig.  In the trailer, everything looks okay, but it only takes a few slip-ups to ruin a scene, then a sequence, then a movie.  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake toed this line a little too liberally for my taste, and suffered for it. Still, it’s hard to imagine that some imperfect CGI will mar a film with such impressive talent.

Though I can’t say I will find myself supporting the underlying politics of this film, I’ll be pouring over Cannes coverage to get its pulse, and I’m looking forward to seeing it as soon as possible.

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