Gang Dong-won as Jung-seok
Lee Jung-hyun as Min-jung
Lee Re as Joon
Kwon Hae-hyo as Elder Kim
Kim Min-jae as Sergeant first class Hwang
Koo Kyo-hwan as Captain Seo
Kim Do-yoon as Chul-min
Lee Ye-won as Yu-jin
Co-Written & Directed by Yeon Sang-ho; Co-Written by Park Joo-Suk
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Review:
2016’s Train to Busan was one of the most surprising and original efforts in the zombie genre in a long time and with an ending leaving just enough open for a possibly interesting follow-up, the announcement of Peninsula was one of the brightest bits of news to come from the film world but sadly, the film can’t live up to the high bar set by its predecessor and is instead an overblown, unoriginal slog.
When the zombie outbreak swept the entire nation, Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) barely escaped South Korea alive. While living a life of despair in Hong Kong, he receives an enticing offer to return to the quarantined peninsula. His mission is to retrieve an abandoned truck in the middle of Seoul within a time limit and escape the peninsula silently. But his operation goes haywire when a mysterious militia known as Unit 631 ambushes Jung-seok’s small team, as well as even more vicious hordes of zombies. In his most desperate moment, Min-jung’s (Lee Jung-hyun) family saves him and he plans one last chance to escape the peninsula once and for all.
One of the best things about the first film was its simple setup of “zombies on a train” that was supported by fully realized characters and socio-political commentary littered throughout and while a sequel certainly can’t just repeat the same formula as its predecessor, it shouldn’t shoot for Neptune when its original destination was Mars. The story and world of the film is so hurriedly introduced to audiences who are supposed to accept the new social system of the titular post-apocalyptic land that it makes it hard for viewers to care or find their footing before their quickly thrown into the next plot point while also losing the claustrophobic nature of the original that made it a pulse-pounding ride from start to finish.
Not only is the world expanded far too quickly, but it’s also a rather uninteresting and unoriginal build that borrows far too heavily from other post-apocalyptic societies such as War for the Planet of the Apes or Escape From New York rather than seek out its own take on what a zombie-infested quarantined island would be like. There always has to be a mildly-successful pack of people with a crazed military man in the mix and disturbing hobbies to keep survivors in line, and while this film’s zombie tag game is certainly horrifying to look at, it’s also wildly underwhelming as the few times we see it, it plays out the same way each time.
Though from an entirely different genre, the film would’ve done better to take a page or two from the book of the Die Hard franchise when it came to building up its world, gradually increasing the size and scope of its setting rather than rushing into as grandiose an environment as possible. This formula and structuring would also have helped better establish the possibility of a third and final installment in the franchise in the biggest area yet rather than leaving audiences wondering where could the filmmakers possibly go next in a follow-up.
Another major problem with the film comes in its action sequences, which utilize far more and far worse CGI effects than the similarly CGI-heavy zombie blockbuster World War Z as well as shifting from zombie on human survival sequences to a lot of car chases and shootouts between survivors that again feel very out of place for an immediate follow-up to Busan. There’s no denying the practical action is very well-executed, especially some of the gun fu on display in the final act, but where the original saw dozens of real people acting as zombies with occasional CGI used to beef up the crowd here and there, this film brings cartoonish hordes of the walking dead akin to the Brad Pitt-starring pic that just feel weightless and unscary when they’re seen.
Not to mention the fact these computer-generated walkers are primarily seen in the extensive and awful-looking car sequences littered throughout the film, which only makes these scenes far worse than they would have been if there were no zombies in them. Understandably, it’d be hard to make believable car chases in a post-apocalyptic city without I Am Legend-level budgeting, but with a lack of solid visual effects, every car scene looks worse than half of all video games released on two-generation-ago consoles and induce groans from audiences rather than excitement.
While it has the occasional thrilling action sequence and a phenomenal opening that sets it up for greatness, Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula proves to be a lackluster, unoriginal and awful-CGI-heavy drag that not only fails to reach the high bar its predecessor set, but crawls along the ground underneath it.