This post contains spoilers for “Okja.”
“Okja” is a thinly veiled fable indicting capitalistic greed. In the superb new Netflix movie about a gentle giant, the Mirando Corporation ― the central enterprise that manufactures “super-pigs” to be raised for 10 years and then killed for mass consumption ― can’t be stopped, not even by militant animal-rights fighters.
It wasn’t always going to be that way. Bong Joon-ho, the visionary Korean filmmaker whose credits also include “Snowpiercer” and “The Host,” originally considered a more optimistic ending.
In Bong’s first conceptualization of “Okja,” thousands of Animal Liberation Front members in North America banded together to “infiltrate” the New Jersey meat-processing plant where super-pigs are mere cattle to be prodded and liquidated. Together, the ALF would have “liberated every single super-pig,” Bong told HuffPost in a recent interview.
Alas, in the end, Bong is too much of a realist ― a “pessimist,” even, in his own words. A wealthy corporation like Mirando, with its rapacious overlords and inhumane objectives, succumbing to a band of scrappy liberationists would be a bit too feel-good.
“That seemed too cartoonish ― I wanted to focus on Okja alone,” the director said, via a translator, referring to the titular super-pig raised blissfully in the South Korean countryside by the young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun).
The premise of “Okja” stemmed not from the context of Mirando’s cruelty, but from the idea of a genetically engineered colossus with a “sad” face and a “lovely” disposition. Bong said he wanted to filter the perspective through characters who love the animal, specifically a headstrong child. By the time he was scripting the movie’s first draft, Bong had dismissed his original ending, favoring Okja’s show-stopping near-slaughter and Mija’s showdown with the callous Nancy Mirando (Tilda Swinton).
Even if “Okja” doesn’t culminate with a grand corporate blow that would lend the movie a Disney-esque idealism, Bong said he still wanted to provide a dash of hope. A clever post-credits sequence shows Animal Liberation Front chief Jay (Paul Dano), newly released from prison, boarding a bus with K (Stephen Yeun) to crash a Mirando shareholders’ meeting. Their mission survives.
“They continue,” Bong said. “The next goal is to wreck or demonstrate at a Mirando event. That’s where the realism lies.”
“Okja” is now streaming on Netflix.