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Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula Review

March 29, 2021 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Train to Busan: Peninsula
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Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula Review  

* Gang Dong-won as Jung-seok
* Lee Jung-hyun as Min-jung
* Kwon Hae-hyo as Elder Kim
* Kim Min-jae as Sergeant Hwang
* Koo Kyu-hwan as Captain Seo
* Kim Do-yoon as Chul-min

Story: Peninsula takes place four years after the zombie outbreak in Train to Busan. The Korean peninsula is devastated and Jung Seok, a former soldier who has managed to escape overseas, is given a mission to go back and unexpectedly meets survivors.

Train to Busan was a revelation when it originally came out. It some much needed life to the zombie movie after years of the genre becoming watered down. It was not only one of the best of 2016, but it was easily the best zombie movie in over a decade at that point. Even now, there still hasn’t been any really good movies as every kind of story you could tell with zombies has been told. Even The Walking Dead seems to be on its last legs in terms of popularity, in spite of getting two new spinoffs.

The original Busan was a movie that took what didn’t work in World War Z (hordes of running zombies, almost to a cartoonish degree) and made it work. It was a story with unique characters, a lot of heart and more importantly, it built to the mayhem that came later. The story starts on a train, then things get crazier and crazier. By the time a horde of zombies has appeared, the movie has earned it and they’re accepted as more. However, Busan ended with its story being told and there was no real need for a sequel.

Of course, four years later, it got one anyway.

The only things that really connect Peninsula to Busan are the title, the location and a couple of off-hand mentions here and there. And if you removed the Train to Busan presents part of the title, no one would really know it was a sequel. In a way, this is good. There was no need to continue on with anything from the first film outside of the zombie infection anyway. On the other hand, it makes this film kind of pointless.

While Busan is one of the best zombie movies ever, Peninsula is just one of the many zombie movies that have been made over the years. That doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact, there are some fun set pieces and interesting characters. But other than that, it contains little elements of movies in this style that were done before and sometimes done better. In fact, sometimes the elements were done better in the movie this is a direct sequel of.

Peninsula does benefit from having a heart, much like the original did. The main character, played by Gang Dong-won, is dealing with a lot of guilt and grief, leaving him hardened to the world. After what happened to him when he initially escaped, he decides that he might as well make some money and so that’s what lands him back on the zombie-infested peninsula. However there he meets a family that inexplicably stayed behind and suddenly his priorities change.

When putting together one of these movies, the human characters are absolutely essential. If you don’t like or want to follow them, the whole thing turns into a visual effects reel and no matter how entertaining it can be at the start, it will grow dull quickly. In this case, it does have a solid family dynamic created, which is nicely juxtaposed against the other human inhabitants of the area, who are simply out for themselves and more savage. Perhaps none of them should have stayed behind but while one group opts simply for survival and possible escape, the other descends into greed and inhumanity.

In other words, you can definitely see that the director still had a message he wanted to deliver in between all the bloody carnage and hordes of zombies. It’s not exactly subtle, but by the time the climax is rolling along, the viewer is too invested in the family and Jung-seok to care. In that way, it is very much like Train to Busan, even if the general trappings have been done before and better. It still fails in some degrees, such as making a character generally unlikeable and then killing them off later, as if the viewer is meant to feel sorry. The character is less of a person and more of a plot device.

Peninsula, on its own, is a solid but unremarkable zombie movie. For every fun action sequence or nice character moment, there’s a ham-fisted attempt to be deep or a bizarre attempt at humor to derail it. As a sequel to Train to Busan, it’s even worse because it hardly ever justifies its own existence. A lukewarm recommendation, as it’s still miles ahead of most of the other movies of this type right now.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Peninsula is a solid but ultimately disappointing follow-up to Train to Busan. It's a decent and fun zombie movie, but it doesn't really have much to stand out or make it different than the other zombie movies. Recommended, but you likely won't remember a lot about it later. Peninsula will be available on Shudder on April 1.