What is Okja, exactly? A children's movie? An action flick? A subtle political allegory? A flamboyant, dystopian satire? A vegetarian manifesto? It is a little bit (maybe even a lot) of all these things -- and, for a while, at least, it works marvelously. The satire is initially foregrounded, as the Mirando Corporation, a giant multinational run by the garishly narcissistic Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), unveils a super-pig that has been discovered in Chile. She announces a contest in which farmers around the world will be given a piglet each and compete to raise the finest super-pig. How will they determine the winner? The pig, as Lucy tells us, "needs to taste fucking good." (So maybe it's not a kids' movie?)
The story kicks into gear some years later, as Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), an orphaned girl living in the mountains of South Korea whose beloved super-pig, Okja, is her constant companion, resists the efforts of Mirando employees to take away her porcine pal. Enter the Animal Liberation Front, an environmental resistance group led by Jay (Paul Dano), the most sensitive, beta-male revolutionary leader in the history of cinema. As Mija and these oddball guerrillas battle the megacorporation in an effort to save Okja (not to mention all the other super-pigs), the picture veers into a throw-it-all-against-the-wall free-for-all.
Anyone who's familiar with Bong's filmmaking should know, however, that there are deeper, more serious ideas at work here. Still, the political overtones get muddled, and the human story becomes more cloying and artificial. As its many fragmented ideas threaten to fall apart, Okja ladles on the sentiment -- with diminishing returns.