A Solid Yet Derivative Follow-Up

After watching the classic that was Train to Busan, the thought of a sequel may come as a surprise to some. It is arguably fair to wonder where any sequel could go as it is safe to say that the original set a pretty high bar so expectations for any sequel aren’t unreasonable. As far as Peninsula is concerned, the sequel to Train to Busan, it is a much different film than the original which isn’t necessarily a bad thing although it is no longer a surprise (though it may be for some audiences which isn’t exactly shocking as comparisons to the original are inevitable and unavoidable). Rather, it is an adjacent film in that it takes place in the world in which the original created and suffice it to say that the world is even crazier than it was then. Meanwhile, Peninsula may be different but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t borrow anything from the original as those same quality production values remain this time around.

Early on into Peninsula, it will become very clear what audiences will be dealing with as the same outbreak from the original remains an issue and one that is even more rampant and widespread as the world struggles to contain it. This film follows a different set of characters in what was a more focused storyline, following a former soldier with a troubled history named Jung Seok (Gang) who accepts a mission to join a team and return to the Korean peninsula to retrieve valuable merchandise, now a quarantine zone. This now dystopian-like environment was the setting for what was meant to be an easy mission which turned out to be anything but (because obviously) as the environment and the countless zombies roaming among it as well as the many unexpected survivors, not to mention Seok’s past proved to be a challenge to say the least.

If anything, Peninsula is dark, perhaps too dark for some. Some may also argue that the film’s dystopian setting lends to what amounts to a somewhat derivative and uninspiring storyline (some may say that it goes a little too “Hollywood”). While Seok’s personal subplot still manages to slightly break through the film’s other derivative aspects, they are still hard to ignore. The longer Seok remained, the deeper he got in the middle of rival factions who have remained on the peninsula for one reason or another. Living there was certainly not easy but just like everyone everywhere, they were simply doing what they could to survive. However, this did not always mean the same, little did Seok know. These moments varied, reminding us that there is plenty of good and plenty of bad in this world. Regardless, these moments were still compelling to watch and still offered some depth. However, the characters as a whole were not overly strong, arguably because of that derivative nature.

Inevitably, these worlds within a world would collide as the action and the tension ratcheted up. Playing off as more of an action film than a zombie film, Peninsula still offers a fair share of excitement despite offering not much in the way of anything new or inventive whatsoever. Meanwhile, it does admittedly get repetitive fairly quickly. The dystopian environment does allow for some fun moments during the action sequence, however, it also gets dull and repetitive for the most part. The film’s saving grace, tying all of those together, was that same production value, from the camerawork, to the score, and that same work to bring the zombies to life, though the spotty special effects return and are more noticeably spotty in its attempt to keep up with the scale of the film (while the budget does appear to be around the same as the original).

Ultimately, the best part of Peninsula was the excellence performance from Gang as Seok. The story may not be as strong as it could have been but it was his subplot from beginning to end, though not original, was still the strongest part of the film and that was solely because of him. His charisma and presence helps to sell what was essentially the redemption story of a damaged man who had clearly been through a lot. He also handled himself admirably during the film’s many action sequences.

At the end of the day, Peninsula is best enjoyed as its own film and not as a sequel to Train to Busan. Audiences who can do that will surely be treated to a decent time.

still courtesy of Well Go USA

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