Computer-graphics animals in movies can be hit or miss. The ape Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes movies, performed by Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis through motion-capture technology? Unfathomably photoreal. Those monkeys from 1995's Jumanji? The ones that steal a cop car and monkey around with a shotgun? A little like walking MS Paint drawings. But just think of how many floppy disks it took to render them. Those pixelated critters carried us to where we are today.
In recent years, CG has become the Hollywood-approved way to avoid animal harm and cruelty. Instead of wrangling 100 horses for a big fantasy action sequence, a computer can copy-paste those majestic creatures into existence. Netflix's new movie Okja takes the concept one step further -- not only is the title animal a creation of visual effects artists, the "super pig" is at the heart of an animal rights story, one that could make you a vegetarian before the credits roll.
From director Bong Joon Ho, popular with Netflix subscribers after his monster movie The Host and his Chris-Evans-leads-a-train-rebellion action movie Snowpiercer, Okja tells the story of Mija (newcomer An Seo Hyun), the caretaker of Okja, an oversized pig who roams the mountains of South Korea. But when the Mirando Corporation catches wind of the animal's existence, the CEO (Tilda Swinton) captures the beast to clone its DNA and create a new breed for meat harvesting. As she says in the trailer, with Cruella de Vil-like giddiness, the pigs will revolutionize livestock by leaving a minimal footprint on the environment, consuming less feed, and producing less excretions.
"And most importantly, they need to taste fucking good."
What transpires is part E.T., part Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and part King Kong, with Mija setting out to the big city to rescue her kidnapped animal friend, and the environmental message coming through loud and clear. Okja looks like another hit for Bong Joon Ho, and a win for anyone with a Netflix account.
Okja costars Paul Dano, Byun Heebong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Giancarlo Esposito and Jake Gyllenhaal, and premieres at the Cannes Film Festival this week before debuting on June 28.