Bong Joon-ho's OKJA
June 28, 2017 11:56 AM - Subscribe

Is anyone going to make a post to discuss Bong Joon-ho's OKJA, which is premiering on Netflix today?

It's getting pretty good reviews and Bong Joon-ho's one of my favorite directors. But I found the trailer, in which the charismatic megafauna title animal is treated VERY roughly, fairly difficult to watch.

I don't think I'm overly sensitive to violence against animals (I mean, I'm very sensitive to it, but I would say merely appropriately so), but even seeing this purely fictional CGI thing getting slapped around really upset me.

Basically I'm wondering if anyone has seen this yet, and if so, is the violence significantly worse than the trailer shows? I'm sure I'll want to watch and discuss either way, but I'm wondering how much I need to emotionally gird myself in advance.
posted by incomple (12 comments total)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:42 PM on June 28, 2017

Whoa thank you so much for this thread! I was going to watch this today, this would have been terrible.
posted by bleep at 2:47 PM on July 1, 2017

I may have oversold the horror. It's not that big a part of the movie, timewise, but the parts that are bad are really bad, largely because the first half of the movie is all about empathizing with Okja. You could watch up until they leave Korea and have an enjoyable time.

I mean... did you see Babe, and then Babe: Pig in the City? And it went from pleasant animal story to oh my God what is happening why are they doing this? Like that, but if part two was a hard R for violence and not just a weird dark shift in tone.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:20 PM on July 1, 2017

That sounds absolutely awful so no it doesn't sound like you oversold it lol.
posted by bleep at 12:23 PM on July 2, 2017

watched this last night. its good, its weird. I found it to be a pretty intense emotional roller coaster (I totes cried) so yeah, the rough is just a part but its pretty f'ing rough.
posted by supermedusa at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2017

OK, here is the non-spoiler edit of my previous comments, click through the review if you want specifics.

Yes, things get worse for Okja. The most disturbing event happens mostly off camera but from the character reactions and animal sounds it's clear what is happening. It's a good film but parts are brutal.

Here is the Common Sense Media review, which notes that Okja has positive messages and role models but gives it 4/5 for violence, specifically "intense, disturbing violence against animals, who wail in pain." They go on to enumerate those disturbing events if you want to either desensitize yourself in advance or confirm your instinct to nope out.

It is a really good movie with interesting things to say about capitalism and commercialism and idealism v. pragmatism, if you can stomach those parts. Most of them are pretty easy to see coming and skip past.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:10 PM on July 9, 2017

Mod note: Removed a couple comment per a bit of discussion about avoiding explicit describing elements of violence in the show, carry on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2017

I found the 'message' of this film fairly muddy, and I'm not entirely sure that was deliberate or not. The broadest strokes appear to be 'animals have feelings, don't eat them'... except there's clearly no issue with eating fish or chicken. So could it be refined more specifically to 'Factory farming is awful, get your animals raised and killed ethically by local farmers'? Except they don't really do much to subvert the paradigm of factory farming, aside from rescuing Okja +1... the rest of the supigs keep getting slaughtered, it's not like they rampage and destroy the facility or something. So is it 'factory farming is a necessary (or at least undefeatable) evil, so just try not to anthropomorphize your food animals'?

I did like the fact that the movie seemed to have zero qualms with painting the ALF as undisputed 'good guys' despite the one dick translator - it's rare to have a film portray eco-activists as anything above 'bumbling naive twits' at best.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:13 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Watched this after this thread reminded me of its existence. Holy tonal shifts, Batman!

I did like the fact that the movie seemed to have zero qualms with painting the ALF as undisputed 'good guys' despite the one dick translator - it's rare to have a film portray eco-activists as anything above 'bumbling naive twits' at best.

I'm not convinced this movie subverted the trope. I did appreciate that they weren't made the villains, beyond the one incident. (By the way, what was the deal with Okja's original transciever getting wet/destroyed? The ALF guys make a brief fuss about it but it doesn't seem to have any further relevance to the plot.)

The most disturbing event happens mostly off camera but from the character reactions and animal sounds it's clear what is happening.

Oddly, the Common Sense Media review doesn't mention this scene at all. At risk of simultaneously being too vague and too specific: It's sufficiently disturbing that people who prefer their films free of sexual assault should steer clear.
posted by neckro23 at 11:02 AM on July 23, 2017

I'm not convinced this movie subverted the trope.

Well their presentation was a combination of enthusiastic, grass roots and very well organized - and they fairly successfully accomplished almost every specific task they set out on. They successfully hijack a trailer, nonlethally neutralize a full cop squad, rig an undetected monitoring system onto Okja, infiltrate and disrupt an entire corporate event while blasting out whistleblower footage to the entire world... I was actually half expecting that their success rate would come out as being due to Tilda's evil twin being the financier/organizer behind the scenes, giving them the info and material support needed to pull off the entire espionage spree.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:09 PM on July 23, 2017

Common Sense euphemizes that scene as "forced breeding", I think, but yes, it's straight-up assault.

In the end, the take-home message seems to be "money talks". Mija wins not because she loves Okja or is pure of heart v. the evil conglomerate, but because she is able to use her golden pig to buy Okja back from Mirando. ALF can do what they will about liberating the rest, Mija accomplished her goal.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:54 PM on July 23, 2017

I know I'm way late to the commentary on this film. I agree with many things mentioned earlier but hopefully, without anthropomorphising Okja too much, I took this very much as an attack on GMO; the angle being that the results were much more self-aware animals. Making everything from the results of horrific breeding experiments, euthanasia of mistakes and forced matings (ie, rape, completely unnecessary in modern husbandry) that much more horrible.

That said, it was enjoyable. The John Denver scene had me laughing hard and there were many other touching moments. The Granddad was set up to be a foil without any reasonable explanation of the parents death. A minute or two expounding on the parents grave stone scene might have set him in a better light and framed Meji's subsequent adventure.

As an aside. I'm a meat eater, albeit very limited. I strongly believe that if you eat meat, you need to understand how it arrives at your plate. This movie only reinforces that view.
posted by michswiss at 3:20 AM on December 29, 2017

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