Most of Peninsula should have already watched ‘Train to Busan’ – four years ahead prequel that’s now kind of considered as a staple movie to watch when it comes to Korean zombie genre flicks. The preceding movie become a hit in its time, perhaps until now, because it strongly focuses the energy on zombie attacks on a train that’s probably being the only safe place in the country with little sprinkles of morality effort. It is a formula that’s proven to work well.
This time round, maybe Peninsula comes from an effort of the director, Yeon Sang-ho, effort to expand his skill set. The movie sets on a broader canvas compared to its predecessor, and it unfortunately affects the heavily uptight vibe that Train to Busan has, in not-so-good way. The various influences this film carries resulting in less intense feeling from midway all through the final section.
It doesn’t help that the genre has been done and touched tons of times before by numerous movie directors all across the world. If you’ve decided that this entertainment treat wasn’t for you, then one could hope that the confirmed sequel from Yeon Sang-ho director will rise and shine again as the first movie on the installment.
The Plot Summary
Instead of opting with storyline and characters’ continuation from his 2016 well-received and acclaimed work ‘Train to Busan’, this time round the South Korean director and scriptwriter Yeon Sang-ho, along with co-writer Park Joo-suk, have decided to steer Peninsula into a whole new plotline – leaving only the same universe to be left.
In the opening, viewers are introduced to new set of characters from the event in parallel continuation of ‘Train to Busan’. Here, Jung-seok (played by Kang Dong-won) presents as military serviceman that works hard to make a boat function, to be used as a safe sanctuary during the attack period. The boat is successfully boards, with the condition of survivors cramping up, packed tightly inside it. The cinematography portrays suffocating feeling of being claustrophobic.
The plot starts to thicken when one person is getting infected. The disaster begins as the infection passes and spreads to everyone, including the sister and nephew of Jung-seok. Long story short, he faces failure to save them and this event presents his character as a forward who flies out with Chul-min (played by Kim Do-yoon) as his brother-in-law, when both realize there is no way the situation can be saved.
The time window in Peninsula movie jumps into four years to the future, when both characters are living grievingly and miserably in Hong Kong. They agree to accept mission to come back to the peninsula from a shady group, in order to find a money-containing truck with $20 million inside. Other two characters, including Min-jung (played by Lee Jung-hyun) join them to make a group of four people, who have to fight against hordes of zombie in almost pitch-black darkness setting. The next plot is following the story of how the group trying to survive and safe themselves against the havoc.
The Characters and Castings
The combination of leads that is Kang Dong-won and Lee Jung-hyun in Peninsula makes quite compelling and strong characters, and so do the clever and resourceful sister Lee Re and Lee Ye-won. However, the same cannot be said for the villains. Kim Min-jae and Koo Kyo-hwan are written in such cartoony villain characters, not to mention the over-acting portrayal from both.
Here is the list of castings and characters of Peninsula:
- Jung-seok, played by Kang Dong-won
He is a former captain for South Korean Marine Corps who carries guilty feeling for not being able to save his sister and nephew.
- Min-jung, played by Lee Jung-hyun
She is a woman who encountered Jung-seok four years ago during his attempt to survive and escape from Korea.
- Elder Kim, played by Kwon Hae-hyo
He is Min-jung’s father, Yu-jin and Jooni’s grandfather who tries to broadcast radio from Busan.
- Sergeant Hwang, played by Kim Min-jae
He is a sergeant of the 631 military unit and co-leader of fight club.
- Captain Seo, played by Koo Kyu-hwan
He is a captain of 631 military unit and the co-head of fight club.
- Chul-min, played by Kim Do-yoon
He is Jung-seok’s brother-in-law who assists him to take the money.
- Jooni, played by Lee Re
She is Minjung’s eldest daughter who helps the attack’s survivors.
- Yu-jin, played by Lee Ye-won
He is Min-jung’s youngest daughter who fights and kills zombies by using toy vehicles.
- Jung-seok’s elder sister, played by Jang So-yeon
She is a woman who refuses to leave her son, who’s already being infected and surrendered to the attack four years ago.
The Movie Reception
Peninsula is amongst several of the extremely anticipated Korean movies to be released in 2020, and it only makes sense considering how much hype that ‘Train to Busan’ has received. The movie is scheduled to be on May premiere during Cannes International Film Festival, which unfortunately had to be cancelled because of the pandemic outbreak. That being said, it still successfully claims a place on box-office list on the time release on its original country, a reception that’s wishfully continuing for its release in North America.
In South Korea, this action-horror flicks sets on Wednesday opening on more than 2,300 screens across the country, resulting in $2.4 million gross profit. During the first day, it sold more than 350,000 tickets, exceeding the entire admission number of ‘Train to Busan’. Based on estimation by Korean Film Biz Zone, this movie gathered a total of $4 million profit to this day. The number is naturally less compared to the first movie because the world is not severely concerned by the coronavirus. That being said, it receives 6.13 rating from South Korean movie critics and 8.39 rating from audience on Naver.
Peninsula raked as just a shy of $800,000 gross profit in Taiwan, where there is no order to close theaters during COVID-19 outbreak. It was higher than the sales of Train to Busan. This film gathered $106,000 on Wednesday debut in Singapore, which validates the movie as Korean movie with highest numbers of launch ever in country. It is clear that this film sits out at the top in various countries mentioned.
On United States and Canada, it also sets records for a South Korean movie release, by achieving $2.1 million. Overall, in total, this work of Yeon Sang-ho gained worldwide profit of more than $92 million.
The Review of Peninsula
Peninsula has its best moment when it puts focus on Yeon Sang-ho visual interpretation regarding fights against the zombie attack. It exudes the same intense energy as ‘Train to Busan’ when waves and waves of zombie are hoarding through the dark tunnel, conveyed under pale moonlight, or tumble from bridge. These are what the viewers are going to remember from the movie.
Because, as great as Kang Dong-won attempt to portray his supposed character, the rage that being put out is okay at its best. The character just doesn’t have the same emotional depth and beats compared to the main character on the prequel. While the original draw the viewers’ attention through dynamic of father and daughter, and through the engaging performances of supporting characters, Peninsula suffers from the lack of this aspect. The circumstances and sacrifices made in this movie felt superficial so they won’t leave much impact.
The fact that this universe of South Korean zombie’s franchise is blown up, becomes one of its weakness points too for the characters and storyline itself. It almost seems like Yeon Sang-ho director fails to grasp what makes the first movie work so well. When one reaches the mid part of the film, it barely feels like zombie movie anymore, but more like action and post-apocalyptic cinema that throws in car vs. zombie scenes.
After all, it should be said with regret that ‘Train to Busan’ has turned into cliché zombie franchise set in post-apocalyptic setting, with dragged plot and poor attempt at incorporating CGI.
Conclusion of Peninsula Movie
Being a massive hit on its genre, there’s a little chance that you haven’t watched ‘Train to Busan’. However, given that Peninsula is a standalone sequel; the recommendation of entertaining yourself with the first movie is still served. It is a clear option if you’d like a Korean movie with engaging characters, absorbing dynamic, surprising attacks, and some clever humors. After all, the second movie is only a shell of the first, so the fact that it is a perfect film to watch is a benefit on itself.
As mentioned earlier, the movie seems like a blend from various influences. These include ‘Wages of Fear’, ’28 Years Later’, and even ‘Fast and Furious’ to a degree because of how it integrates car racing scenes.
The universe of Peninsula strays from being exclusively zombies and turns more into what looks like ‘Mad Max’ movies, so do give yourself a favor if you haven’t watched it. The influence of plotting from ‘Mad Max’ is even completed through the character that has to battle the zombies in some watery pits.