By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho, who made a huge splash with his zombie flick Train To Busan, is back with a new installment, Peninsula. Yeon actually takes a page out of the career of zombie master George Romero and has created a sequel with different characters that takes place within the same zombie apocalypse universe. With Peninsula, the director and co-writer Park Joo-Suk go for an even more action-oriented affair that is obviously more fun, but less dramatic and tragic. The result is a fun and exciting movie, but one that lacks the emotional impact of the first installment.
Gang Dong-won stars as Marine Captain Jung-seok. The movie begins more or less where the previous installment ends. A virus that is turning people into violent zombies has rapidly erupted in South Korea, leaving its citizens frantically seeking shelter. Now that Busan is no longer the safe haven it once was, Jung-seok, his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew join the masses of people evacuating the nation. After an infected person manages to get on one of the escape boats, all hell breaks loose when the virus takes hold. Jung-seok and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) manage to escape, but their loved ones are not as fortunate.
Four years later, both Jung-seok and Chul-min continue to live in Hong Kong and cross paths again when they get offered a chance to escape their impoverished existence. A group of Hong Kong people are assembling a small team of people willing to travel to a quarantined peninsula in Incheon where a truck loaded with U.S. dollars is available for the taking. Both Jung-seok and Chul-min agree to participate, despite the risks of being attacked by the zombies that have taken over the peninsula. As the group proceeds with their plans, they discover that it isn’t just zombies that pose a threat, it is the uninfected people who continue to reside there.
Written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho who co-wrote the film with Park Joo-Suk, Peninsula does offer audiences exciting action and fun, but lacks the emotional depth that makes the first movie so powerful. The story and character development also fail to achieve the same level of greatness and originality. It is an enjoyable and riveting journey, but ine that treads on all-too-familiar territory. The movie features a wonderful cast that performs tremendously despite the limitations of the script.
It is a movie I do recommend, but one for which ardent fans of the first installment should temper their expectations. Should Yeon Sang-ho decide to maje another chapter in this cinematic universe, I do hope that he and his creative partners will come up with something that will launch this franchise forward into more satisfying territory.