Meet Mija and her best friend - a fascinating animal named Okja.
This isn't the first round of Netflix Present's that I've played over the years. Although I'm not huge on television shows - which doesn't prevent me from watching them, but it usually takes a great effort on my part - and it seems like the large chunk of such on Netflix are television shows, they do occasionally throw out the movies as well. Way back when I watched Spectral I figured out that they could do a pretty good job - even if most of the credit probably goes towards the people behind it as opposed to whose tagged in it and funded it. Regardless of the details, let's see if this movie teaches us how we can be a big pig too.
Do you like to think deep into your movies and find all sorts of little social-economical commentary? Well, this thing is probably gonna give you plenty of stuff to think about. There's some major focus on the whole food industry - what with the animals and slaughterhouses and all that sort of thing. We get some splattering of greed and corporations. Of course, we also have some attachment to pets and other such moments as well. I mean, if you like to pick stuff apart, you'd probably be having an absolute blast with this one.
Of course, despite all this you don't need to think hard about it to enjoy the plot. At it's most basic, it feels much like a friend that's a pet mythic creature sort of plot. The plot itself doesn't feel super original, but original isn't always required to be good. It flows well, keeping you interested and in the loop before things even really happen. We know what the corporation plans for their little super-piggy long before the young girl whose befriended it does, and in turn it's not that surprising to us. Sure, it does slip in a few turns here and there - but none of it really comes from left field, as plenty of it is just foreshadowed or mirrored somewhere in reality.
In turn, the motivations of the characters all feel grounded as well. The corporate types are in it for money, with perhaps a bit of wanting to one-up someone in a "I'm better than you" way. The kid's in it to get back her friend whom they've known for most their life (and has saved it at least once in the opening of the movie). The Animal Rights group wants to save the animals and expose the terrible things companies do - and even amongst them, you can see some poor choices made for reasons that are basically spelled out for you. There isn't really a moment in this movie where somebody does something and you just scratch you head and say "that doesn't make any sense at all."
Part of that is probably due to the well acted parts. Considering the amount of time spent acting against a CG giant pig-beast, the young girl does a splendid job. They all deliver their lines well, and there happens to be enough unique personalities amongst the cast that the characters can stand out without seeming too boringly generic. The rights group is full of a loser-like charm, the big bad is charismatic despite being the bad guy, and the girl is stubborn and learns from how others treat her. Heck, even the star piggo has an incredible range of emoting throughout the movie, and at times can evoke that little sense of wonder that you may have gotten when watching things like Jurassic Park or My Neighbor Totoro. In a way, it's somewhat fitting that both those have dark undertones to them as well, as it makes it an even more fitting comparison.
That said, the effects are great. It took slightly longer than I expected to get to a poop joke - even if the first time it's less used as a joke and (dare I say) more like a bit of foreshadowing. I didn't really need to see a giant digital pig-beasts butthole, but beyond that I have a hard time believing that they didn't have some sort of actual giant land manatee beast prop to do some of the shots similar to how Jurassic Park pulled it off long ago. I don't know either which way, but it speaks to the believability of the creature when they've done such a good job not only in the creature's creation itself, but also with how the thing interacts with the environment around it as to be that impressive. As mentioned before, it also helps to the scenes when the thing can emote as well as it does - down to having tear paths animated down its big ole face and eyes that can give the same impression that a dog might.
If I had to pick the biggest flaw out of this thing, it would probably be largely how the ending plays out. It's suitable enough, handles the tension of the scene well, and keeps you interested as an ending should, but it also feels almost like the thought train just sort of puttered out as it came into the station. They do manage to make another jab at your emotions after the main conclusion, and that's pretty effective so it's not all bad. Of course, they also decide to do a after-credit scene - something that makes even less sense to me considering it's a Netflix branded movie, and more annoying to me personally since as far as I'm aware this never saw theatrical release. It annoys me enough coming from the Marvel brand (and good for you if you like it, I know some people do), but now it's working it's way into your straight to internet/home movies and that's getting kinda nuts. Oh well, at least here it's played more as a last laugh scene than it is a setup for anything else.
Overall, this is a finely put together movie. It has it's various charms, even if it obviously has some things it's trying to say to you about things. You can watch it with your brain turned off and get just as much enjoyment though, and it looks and flows quite well. There's some humor in there to help offset some of the more dark moments, and it overall does a good job in keeping your attention. Although it's actual listed rating is TV-MA, I've listed it as R because it's essentially the same thing and I'm not making a brand new rating category for just one movie - why it's rated MA instead of R in the first place is baffling to me. Either way, parent's should without doubt watch this before they let there kids watch it (if they do at all), as despite the kid rescuing pet plot there is a substantial use of colorful language, some violence, and some other things in here that certainly aren't very suitable for kids.