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Photo courtesy SIFF.

SIFF 2024: ‘Pigsy’ film review

An elevated animation project, “Pigsy” astounds with its stunning visuals and epic dystopian look at a colorful and other-worldly futuristic society. The film is also a wonderful adaptation of a classic Chinese fable, one that will instill in its viewers that proverbial appreciation for the people around us who make our lives worth living.

A “Journey to the West” reimagining 

In “Pigsym” the titular character is a self-absorbed swine who is bored and frustrated by his life in Old Town, an overcrowded and deteriorating neighborhood of futuristic Taiwan. Determined to get out, Pigsy will do anything to be chosen by an algorithm that would allow him to leave his unsatisfying urban jungle behind for the New World. Marketed as a manufactured utopia, the New World is being carefully populated by the most productive members of society who have proven their worth and who will, in theory, make this new promised land of hope and potential free from the undeserving lower class.

His Granny, a hard-working cook, doesn’t understand Pigsy’s one-track mindset on attaining passage to the New World. She encourages him to appreciate the blessings that they have instead of looking for more. Pigsy, who, due to a technical error, is accidentally and very publicly listed as a new resident accepted to the New World, is eager to prove that the confusion was fortuitous and gain the honor by any means necessary. 


Photo courtesy SIFF.

A new and fresh take on Chinese classic

He teams up with a sketchy underworld organization led by the Bull Demon King, whose wide shoulders and intimidating frame are made all the more terrifying by his military-grade garb and thick gold nose ring. Pigsy must steal the password from his boss, who created the algorithm if he wants any chance at a “new” future. As Pigsy works harder and harder to acquire the password, he grows closer to the very people he must undermine: his strait-laced human boss, a naïve, well-intentioned android girl who joins their posse and Wu-Kong, a kung-fu-fighting monkey warrior tasked with protecting the algorithm which could prove world-ending in the wrong hands.

Arguably one of the greatest and most famous pieces of Chinese literature, “Journey to the West” may be hundreds of years old, but it feels new and fresh when outfitted in this cyberpunk retelling. Wu-Kong is taken straight from the ancient work which tells of a Monkey King whose strength, power and intelligence make him a fearsome fighter, the allegorical representation of the human mind and impulse. Pigsy, himself, is also in the classical text. Originally a commander with an insatiable appetite for food, women and many perceived vices, he is a “lazy” character who represents base human nature.

Middle grade and up 

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this recycled fable, but the true alluring components that makeup “Pigsy” are the enticing visuals and modernized Aesopian quest that director Chiu Li Wei has so thoughtfully brought to the big screen. The film moves quickly from scene to scene, and the world that the characters inhabit is truly larger than life. As the film nears its wild end, the action sequences double in size and scope, and the rock music feels straight out of an 80s chase sequence. To put it simply, “Pigsy” delivers on its epic action-adventure promise while still strumming the heartstrings with its story of redemption and finding one’s moral compass despite the temptation of wealth and happiness.

The film features all the iconography we’d expect from a futuristic science fiction film, like flying cars and frequent holographic figures. It is an obvious ode to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi neo-noir classic “Blade Runner”, making this SIFF selection the perfect choice for a middle-grade or teenage viewer who loves futuristic, dystopian worlds. The innovative animation combines 2D and 3D to captivating effect. Presented with English subtitles, it will take very sufficient reading ability to both scan the dialogue and digest the beautiful images that director Li Wei Chiu creates.

More mature themes

The themes and situations of this film are also a bit more mature. In one scene, an obviously drunk man sways and then vomits all over Pigsy who was just put in a trashcan by bullies. Midway through the film, Pigsy is beaten by the antagonists; though we only see their backs as they swing the weapon down onto Pigsy out of sight, the implications are easily understood. 

Though he looks the part of an innocent, well-intentioned computer nerd, Pigsy is actually a conniving lead who is willing to lie and cheat to win a spot to the New World. He is not a particularly likable character, and it would be better for older viewers to understand these nuances. As in most fairy tales, Pigsy is redeemed in the end by doing what is right to save the lives of his new friends and for the good of society.

Read more:

SIFF 2024: ‘We Can Be Heroes’ film review

Preview: SIFF 2024 family and youth line-up


About the Author

Candice McMillan

Candice McMillan has been writing about film for more than 10 years. Since becoming a mom to her two daughters, she’s had to hang up her affinity for horror films, catering to the two smallest critics who prefer shows about rescue dogs and a family of pigs. Candice has degrees in journalism and film critical studies from USC, and her favorite children’s film is a toss-up between “Anastasia” and “A Goofy Movie.”