Title: Peninsula (also called Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, presumably for Americans who also needed the “III” removed from The Madness of King George so we wouldn’t think there were two other Madness of King Georges).
Describe This Movie in One Simpsons Quote:
CHIEF JUSTICE: I now pronounce you President of these United —
REPORTER: Stop the inauguration! I just discovered our President-Elect got an F in second grade gym class!
CHIEF JUSTICE: In that case I sentence you to a lifetime of horror on Monster Island. [to Lisa] Don’t worry, it’s just a name.
[cut to: Lisa and others chased by monsters]
LISA: He said it was just a name!
MAN: What he meant is that “Monster Island” is actually a peninsula.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Money for nothing, zombies for free.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 packs of Top Ramen out of 5.
Tagline: “4 Years Later …”
Better Tagline: “Bad news: zombie apocalypse. Good news: the dollar’s still strong.”
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Marine Captain Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) managed to escape the zombie outbreak in South Korea, but at a terrible cost: his sister and nephew. Now, four years later, he and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) are stuck in Hong Kong, where “Peninsula” refugees are treated like scum. Desperate, the two accept a mission from a local crime boss to sneak into Incheon and seize an abandoned truck filled with bags of U.S. currency.
“Critical” Analysis: It’s been 52 years since George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead inextricably linked zombies and politics. And while not all subsequent movies about animated, flesh- (or brain-) eating corpses have offered commentary on consumerism or class warfare, that connection has been a big reason why the genre’s endured.
Case in point: Train to Busan, Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 film about train passengers fleeing a zombie apocalypse erupting in South Korean, was hailed not only for its pace and innovative setting, but also for how it examined issues of economic stratification.
Yeon has remarked that Peninsula isn’t a straight-up sequel to Busan, merely that it exists in the same universe. Maybe that will provide comfort to those inevitably disappointed that the former is much more by-the-numbers, with little of the originality that made the first film so enjoyable.
The premise is fine, at least. A heist set during a zombie apocalypse isn’t entirely new (unless you’re one of the approximately everybody who didn’t see Dead Heist). In fact, it’s also the plot of Zack Snyder’s upcoming Army of the Dead. It’s a cool idea, or would be, if Yeon’s heart was in it.
Oh, the zombies are still appropriately horrifying, being the “speedy undead” popularized by Return of the Living Dead and World War Z. But otherwise, the effects are largely disappointing (were there six poorly-rendered CG car chases or seven? Who cares?), and the involvement of Unit 631 (probably a reference to Unit 731, but thankfully much less horrific) is limited to a familiar prisoner vs. zombies game that breaks no new ground.
Peninsula also lacks Train to Busan’s humanity, unless you count two kids Yeon apparently couldn’t decide should be comic relief or improbable badasses, so he made them both. Their connection to their mother and Jung-seok’s guilt over letting his sister and nephew die are the only meaningful connections here, and they’re barely examined.
And that’s before an ending that robs the movie of just about all emotional weight, possibly because it comes after the 8th (or 9th) car chase.
It’s hard not to view Peninsula as a let-down, especially given its predecessor. What’s worse is it’s not terrible. Gang Dong-won and Lee Jung-hyun are effortlessly badass, and Kim Min-jae is a fearsome combo of wits and psychopathy. It’s just too perfunctory, both in mythology and characterization, to engage.
Peninsula is now showing in select theaters. As Johnny Utah once said, vaya con Dios.