Going into a Bong Joon-ho film, one should never expect thematic delicacy. He’s consistently cemented himself down as a filmmaker that is certainly well-aware of exactly what he wants to tackle within his films, and blatantly exploits the corruption within society. Throughout his filmography, there has always been a fine line walked between creative genius and just outright nonsense, which creates a genuine challenge as a viewer to fully grasp a comprehensive appreciation for what he is specifically undertaking.
Okja falls in the same boat as Snowpiercer: a sporadic blast that struggles to counterbalance the copious amount of thematic endpoints that Bong decides to carry aboard. With everything from venturing into the dark realms of slaughterhouses to the nepotism within large corporations, it’s everlastingly clear (until a point) what exactly he is trying to portray to his audience. There is an overly imperious sense of thematic emphasis that suggests as if Bong doesn’t trust his audience enough to pick up on the overwhelming delivery the first few times around, so he continually reiterates these messages again and again. It’s so overbearingly explicit what it is trying that he’s attempting to get across to its audience, as nothing is presented with subtlety. Bong’s lack of nuance isn’t the issue with his work, as it is, for the most part, rather felicitous with his overall modus operandi.
For a film that is all about dissecting pertinent societal issues, it is somewhat startling how Bong Joon-ho manages to directly contradict himself to the extent that he does here; this gives off the impetuous perception that he isn’t extensively capable of finding an equilibrium for the results of his conflicts. Ending on the notion of how someone can become solely content by just saving their own beloved animal, it’s truly beguiling how one can just return to their own sanctuary without contending for their own cause. After witnessing creatures mercilessly slaughtered on end, Mija (Okja‘s central protagonist) is met with this astray sense of initiative to rebel against these egregious enterprises. It’s evident that she’s assuredly not in the position to do anything herself, but Bong’s incapable of capturing even the slightest impression of dissent against the institutions carrying out the inhuman acts that these animals are subjected after Mija has returned home. Okja expends so much of its narrative pursuing the emphasis on fighting for justice, yet when all is said and done, the passion that galvanized the protagonist appears to have dissipated.