Since its launch in 1997, Netflix has carefully built itself into a global brand. Currently available in no fewer than 87 different regions across the globe, the streaming media provider seems to be ever evolving in order to keep up with an entertainment-hungry public. The California based company began to delve into the world of original programming back in 2012 and since that time has moved from television to film in a big way, even garnering an Oscar nomination for the documentary The Square in 2013.
As Netflix continues to prove itself an up and coming force to be contended with, the company has kept its eyes open for potential big business. Filmmaking and distributing are becoming more global in their importance every day, and filmmakers who’ve done big things on an international level with relatively modest budgets are quite often worth paying attention. It’s perhaps for these reasons that Netflix has turned its attention toward Korean director Joon-ho Bong.
With the recent success of Snowpiercer, Bong’s dystopian thriller set aboard a train, the director has proved himself perfect for the sort of wide ranging audience that Netflix is capable of attracting. Brad Pitt’s entertainment company Plan B has also taken an interest in Bong and together, Netflix and Plan B will back Joon-ho Bong’s next film, a monster movie called Okja. Plan B will also co-produce the project, having been responsible for no small amount of box office success over the years, with titles such as Kick Ass, World War Z, and the critically acclaimed, Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave to their formidable roster.
When said in relation to Joon-ho Bong, the words “monster movie” elicit a certain level of excitement amongst his fans. The Korean director is no stranger to the genre; his 2006 film The Host was an enormous hit in Korea and held the title of highest grossing Korean film of all time for several years. Now with the backing and support of Netflix and Plan B, Bong will have the opportunity to access a much wider audience than with previous efforts.
If however, audiences are hoping for a monster film in which a horrific beast wages war on city after city, they might be disappointed by Okja. From the sounds of things, Joon-ho Bong is looking to create something a little more subtle and complex. Here is how the director describes it (via Variety):
“It is a bulky animal, but with a mild and kind spirit. The film is about a warm friendship between a country girl and a brute with stories. To me, the crazy world surrounding Okja and the girl looks more like a monster. I want to depict the two characters’ bizarre journey and adventure across the tough world in an original fashion”
Okja and is one of the first feature films to be backed by Netflix in Asia. Tilda Swinton will return to star in the film, after previously working with Bong on Snowpiercer. Also confirmed as cast members are Paul Dano, Bill Nighy and Kelly MacDonald.
With Netflix and Plan B behind Bong, he’s sure to have the financial backing and creative freedom he needs to show the world something impressive. Based on Bong’s brief synopsis, Okja sounds more dreamy and surreal - something less in the vein of Godzilla or King Kong and more in the vein of a Miyazaki film. At any rate, when it comes to movie making, there’s never any guarantees and because Bong is relatively unknown in English speaking countries, it could be a struggle to get people to see the film. However, Netflix being on board gives the film an entirely different added dimension to it, one that can help a carry a new voice to places that it’s never been before.
Okja will hit theaters in the first half of 2017.