Release Date(s)2020 (November 24, 2020)
Studio(s)Next Entertainment World/RedPeter Film/New Movie (Well Go USA Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D
Set four years after a zombie plague has completely decimated South Korea (as depicted in Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan), this sequel follows Jung-Seok (Gang Dong-won), a former marine sergeant who escaped the disaster with his family only to see all but his brother-in-law, Chul-min, killed on the boat evacuation to Hong Kong. Now stuck in limbo in China, Jung-Seok and Chul-min are given an offer they can’t refuse by a local crime boss: If they sneak back into South Korea to retrieve a truck full of American currency, they can keep half of the spoils for themselves. This they attempt to do, but the mission doesn’t go smoothly. Soon, Jung-Seok is forced to confront a woman and her daughters that he neglected to help during his original escape from the outbreak. Meanwhile, Chul-min and the truck are captured by a band of ruthless ex-soldiers who’ve created their own private fortress inside the quarantine zone and mean to use Chul-min as the entertainment in a gladiator-style zombie combat arena.
Still with me? Then I salute your fortitude. While watching Peninsula in 4K, I found myself wishing I was watching Train to Busan on the format instead. Yeon’s 2016 original film was absolutely fantastic, a complete cinematic surprise that came seemingly out of left field and managed not only to be an effective zombie thriller, but emotionally affecting too. Unfortunately, Yeon’s sequel plays more like a video game, an odd mix of Grand Theft Auto, Escape from New York, and The Goonies that’s not nearly as good as that description makes it sound. The shame of it all is, Yeon’s idea was an interesting one: Having failed to save his own family, Jung-Seok must find redemption by being given a second chance to save another family that he previously abandoned. But too many characters, and awkward intercutting between Jung-Seok’s story and Chul-min’s, canibalizes the film’s momentum—not to mention any chance to really grow emotionally attached to Jung-Seok, the woman he meets again, or her daughters. And that’s a bummer, because those daughters are compelling characters. Having grown up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, they’re plucky, resiliant, and charming. But when the oldest daughter suddenly becomes Mario Andretti behind the wheel of a zombie-plowing SUV in multiple car chase sequences, things just get silly. The action is by turns frenetic and proposterous, then seems to completely stop for strained moments of character melodrama. More jarring still are brief scenes featuring American English-speaking actors that are uniformly terrible—not the just scenes but the actors too.
Peninsula was captured digitally using Arri Alexa cameras (at 2.8K). It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. For its Ultra HD release, that source was upsampled to 4K and graded for high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are available on this disc). The resulting image looks good certainly, but the uptick in detail over the regular Blu-ray presentation is modest at best for a number of reasons, including a harsh, high contrast color grade. This results in some fine detail in skin tones and other surfaces being lost. And much of the film takes place in dark nighttime environments, in which the shadows are certainly deep, but still more detail is lost. There’s also a great deal of handheld camerawork, which again makes it hard to appreciate image details. But occasionally things do settle down a bit, so shots are allowed to impress. The film’s palette has a blue-green push, especially in day-for-night shots and scenes captured under florescent lighting. The HDR does add a great deal more pop and vibrance to the colors at least, so Ultra HD is definitely the best way to view the film. Just don’t expect this image to ever really dazzle you compared to other titles on the format.
Audio on the 4K disc is available in Korean Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with subtitles in English and “full” English (I’m still not entirely sure what that even means). The good news is, the sound mix is stronger than the image, though nowhere near reference quality. The soundstage is medium-wide, with clear front-and-center dialogue through much of the film, though subtle atmospheric effects abound in the surrounds. The height channels are used often for overhead ambience, but the mix doesn’t really make the most of them until the set-pieces begin. Then, the whole soundstage opens up with great dynamics, muscular low end, and lively movement, and the height channels add a bit more lift. On the whole, this a nice surround mix, if one that remains a bit uneven.
There are no extras whatsoever on the 4K disc, but Well Go USA’s package also includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. That disc adds the following:
- Making of: The Sequel (HD – 1:43)
- Making of: The Action (HD – 2:31)
- Making of: The Director (HD – 1:29)
- Making of: The Characters (HD – 3:04)
- Teaser Trailer (HD – 1:35)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:55)
It’s basically EPK-style filler. The Making of clips are mostly just shots of the director and cast answering questions. They’re barely worth watching once, even at their paltry length.
Ultimately, Peninsula manages to be a mildly entertaining actioner, but if you were hoping for a truly worthy sequel to Train to Busan you’re likely to be disappointed. Still, Peninsula does have its moments and there is some fun to be had here. Go into it with low expectations and you might have a decent time with it. The film is recommended for fans only, but if you do like it, 4K is certainly your best bet.
- Bill Hunt