Peninsula Review: Less Train to Busan, More Mad Max.

3 and a half stars
Train to Busan 
is my favourite zombie movie of all time.
It is an emotional thrill ride that I find myself returning to time and time again.
So, you can bet that when I heard a sequel was coming out, titled Peninsula, I was incredibly excited.
Because of the pandemic, many films have not been able to come to cinemas in my country but Peninsula was one that did.
I saw an advertisement for a limited screening and booked a ticket as quick as I could, viewing it in a packed theater.
However, I did go in with some reservations.
In the months before Peninsula’s release, I had seen the trailer and, to me, it looked like a generic zombie story that I had seen a thousand times before.
Train to Busan was so much more than that so I was hoping that its sequel would be at least of a similar caliber.
Although, there were some things that spoke in the film’s favor, like it having the same director as the original, Yeon Sang-ho.
So, when the movie started, I was hopeful, yet cautious.
Well, for the first half hour of the film, all of my concerns flooded away.
The opening of Peninsula had the same emotional impact of Train to Busan, almost bringing me to tears in the first ten to fifteen minutes.

peninsula movie
The first ten to fifteen minutes of Peninsula has the same emotional weight as the original Train to Busan. The rest of the film though…

This time around, the film centers on Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon), two survivors from the outbreak who have been traumatized by the losses they suffered.
Four years after the virus first broke out, the two and other survivors return to the peninsula to retrieve millions of dollars, which they can use to build new lives for themselves.
Of course, this operation does not go according to plan, with the characters struggling to survive not just against zombies but psychotic humans as well.
As I said, the first half hour of the film is amazing, setting up this storyline incredibly well.
However, after the half hour mark, the fears I had going in were sadly realised as Peninsula devolved into the generic, cliched zombie story I was afraid it would be.
The film honestly feels like they were trying to emulate Mad Max more than Train to Busan.
Seriously, there are so many car chases in this film that just defy the laws of physics and completely broke my suspension of disbelief on multiple occasions.
The CGI also doesn’t help with this but I won’t say that it was awful or anything.
Many of the characters also fall into the cliched zombie tropes of old, most notably the corrupt former soldiers who have become psychotic in the zombie infested landscape.
Look at the villain of the first film, Yong-suk.
He was a commentary on the bad aspects of business culture in South Korea, making him an investing character that we loved to hate.
The villains of this film are just generic, psychotic bad guys.

zombie cage fight
The antagonists of Peninsula are the typical crazy soldiers who feed people to zombies for fun that we have all seen before.

The other characters aren’t much better with the only exceptions being Jung-seok, Chul-min and possibly Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun), but Jung-seok and Chul-min did have the benefit of having the film built around their struggles.
Peninsula also ends very abruptly and in a way that made me wonder what the point was.
There is a problem that I found to be very funny though and that is the English.
The movie has a lot of English speaking characters this time around and this creates many unintentionally hilarious scenes.
Not because of bad pronunciation though, no, but because of how bad the English dialogue is written.
An opening news scene felt completely unnatural and, worst of all, one hilariously bad case of English dialogue had me laughing at a scene that was supposed to be incredibly emotional.
However, I will not say that the film was bad overall.
Like I said, the first half hour is the best part with the first 15 minutes actually getting me close to tearing up because of how emotional it was.
As stated, I also did like a couple of the characters, like Jung-seok.
Unlike Seok-woo from Train to Busan, who was just a businessman caught in this bad situation, Jeong-seok is more of an action hero, which does suit the film he is in.
I liked his arc, which is one of redemption.

pensila character
Although many of the characters are bland, I did like Jeong-seok’s arc quite a bit because it was built up and executed well.

Another thing that is important to note is that, even though I have criticized this film for being just another generic zombie film, that makes it the perfect movie to just sit back and enjoy the action.
If you’re looking for a good popcorn film that you can entertain you for nearly two hours and then never think of again, then you can have fun with Peninsula.
The action is at least well shot enough for you to enjoy yourself.
However, if you are looking for a spiritual successor to the original Train to Busan then you will most likely be left disappointed.

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