Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula
Sang-ho Yeon's Peninsula is a far cry from Train to Busan, failing to capture lighting in a bottle once again, instead suffering from general sequel tendencies, including more action and less story. The budget seems to have increased, but the charm and magic is all but lost.
Director Sang-ho Yeon returns to the world of Train to Busan with his highly-anticipated sequel longly titled Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, which is plagued with being a sequel to a now-beloved zombie classic. Peninsula isn’t bad, but it functions more like a B-movie than anything else, making it feel like a bloated splat of zombies and gore, with no real connective tissue to the first film.
It has been four years since the events of Train to Busan. South Korea has been mostly contained, with the rest of the world moving on from the zombie outbreak. This leaves a prime opportunity for gang bangers and drug dealers to take advantage of the situation in South Korea, with the latest bright idea involving sending a group of people to recover a truck full of money.
In South Korea, this money means nothing and is probably just going to collect dust while the zombies stupidly walk around it. But to the rest of the world, this money is very real and very worth risking the lives of those around you to attempt to acquire.
Jung Seok (Dong-Won Gang) embarks on the journey, not out of need or want, but out of guilt. He failed to safely rescue his sister and her child, while barely escaping with her husband four years ago and that haunts him to this day. Now, he lives alone and occasionally interacts with his brother-in-law, who suggested that they do this one last job and then go their separate ways.
Jung knows the risks, but he realizes that he has nothing left to live for and helping his brother-in-law one more time might give him the redemption that he needs. That all changes once they arrive in South Korea and realize that there’s a whole other world still living amongst the zombie hordes.
I am going to start off this review by noting that I was very late to the Train to Busan game. By that, I mean that I just first watched the movie on Netflix less than a month ago and I will say that it definitely lives up to the hype.
Train to Busan brings something unique to the zombie sub-genre of horror, capturing the gore and violence, but also establishing an emotional core with its characters and putting them in a unique situation that is absolutely entertaining to watch unfold. It’s not my favorite zombie movie by any stretch, but it’s a huge dose of different amongst an over-populated crowd of zombie media.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is a far cry from the original’s innovation and effectiveness, settling for B-movie sequel rather than a continuation of the story. The only real common traits here are zombies and the director Sang-ho Yeon, with the rest of the movie feeling like a separate entity in almost all aspects.
And that’s not a horrible thing, but something worth considering when purchasing a ticket. Expectations are no doubt going to be high, but they should be lowered and altered. If you walk into Peninsula expecting another fun zombie romp, then you’ll probably leave the theater mostly satisfied, but if you’re expecting another Train to Busan, then you might want to proceed with caution.
The biggest reason for this is the lack of story. There’s not a whole lot going on here that we haven’t seen done before. There are shades of Land of the Dead and even The Walking Dead throughout this film. There’s the redemption story that tries to play things out in the same way that Train to Busan captivated our minds, but then there’s a lot of that typical post-apocalyptic garbage that plagues films like this almost instantly.
I’m talking about the group of military misfits that have gone crazy. Led by a lazy lunatic and backed by a true nut job that either kills people at random or throws them in a pit to watch the zombies have their way with them.
Speaking of zombies, this movie feels very much like World War Z in its ability to capture an enormous amount of zombies by way of CGI. There’s a lot of hordes of zombies that move fast and pile up, despite most of the film’s action sequences taking place outside and with cars.
So much of Peninsula felt like video game shorts as our heroes are seen speeding through an intersection and mowing down zombies with their vehicles. None of this appears to have been captured practically, which makes the CGI noticeable and somewhat off putting.
Everything seems to happen in the dark, which is a crutch the film leans on far too often, thus making it a bit easier to hide the film’s shortcomings.
There is a steady dose of zombie action to go around, but none of it carries any weight.
I found myself checking my watch at several points through Peninsula, because of just how uninterested I was in everything that was unfolding. The zombies were cool for a minute, but then the same sequences kept replaying themselves over and over, until even I (a man with a decent amount of patience) was rolling my eyes at another vehicle squashing a herd of zombies like a scene out of Mad Max: Fury Road.
The ending drags, presenting several false finishes until ultimately settling on something that wraps things up with a neat little bow on the top.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a story perspective, but that’s fine, because director Sang-ho Yeon is banking on the fact that you love watching hordes of zombies constantly getting ran over or blown up, without much variation. It’s a fine slice of B-movie cinema that I probably would’ve enjoyed more had I caught it late at night on Shudder or Netflix. But paying the price of a ticket in theaters left much to be desired and felt like I wasted my time on something that shares very little in common with the original film.