Korean Apocalypse

Four years after Train to Busan’s viral outbreak, South Korea became what every zombie movie apocalypse envisions. People turned tribal, some drifting between stages of insanity, others merely in a rational survival mode.

That’s the disappointment to this sequel, that it’s so much like everything else. The tropes, the action, the characters. By the end, Train to Busan: Peninsula aims at Hollywood via lavish digital effects scenes, excitingly staged, if flat.

Train to Busan: Peninsula aims at Hollywood via lavish digital effects scenes

On its own, Train to Busan: Peninsula functions as intended. Undead and gore splash onto the screen, raising tensions as key players chase after a truck stuffed with US currency. There’s a genuine sense South Korea is isolated, economically ruined to a point where finding a truck amid flesh eaters seems reasonable. There’s a nationalist tinge in so far that South Korea can take care of itself and other countries show few signs of helping. Class divisions, so pertinent in Train to Busan, linger too, although to a lesser degree; Peninsula chooses broader socioeconomic factors as a base.

A few moments catch notable (and current) anxieties too, with mainlanders terrified the infection might spread, rejecting anyone immigrating from the outbreak’s initial source. Worries of viral pathogens dissipate quickly though – soon it’s a rush to stuff in action wherever it can fit. That’s after an effective opening as survivors escape the city on a boat, trading a train for a ship, but one person aboard harbors the virus. It’s fantastic, and capturing the dramatic punch seen in Train to Busan.

Expanding scope means dropping the identifiable intimacy when cramming the actors on what’s effectively a missile on rails. Here all the streets, corners, buildings, and cars keep things overly mobile, whiffing on sustained pressure because there’s room to navigate. And navigate Train to Busan: Peninsula will, the camera frequently spinning out in an attempt to embolden action scenes. There’s so little time to settle and appreciate this world.

Even if the derivative aesthetic borrows liberally from other fiction, the characters make it what it is. Since everyone is new – Train to Busan: Peninsula more an in-name-only than direct follow-up – the structure resets. In that, Train to Busan: Peninsula identically marches toward the same arcs and conclusion, but chooses something more uplifting to end on. Like the digital effects, it’s artificially bland and rather than define itself on its own terms, chases after international box office.

Video

Inconsistencies at the source do deserve ire. The digital cameras lack needed definition in mid/long range imagery, introducing ringing along with a waxy, smothered appearance that wipes fine detail. While impressively low on source noise (and Well Go’s encode is commendable) the unnatural glossiness saps fidelity from afar.

That said, precision close-ups take full advantage of this opportunity. Dazzling facial texture persists for the full runtime, always clear. Although definitely an upscale, resolution’s potency finds substantial material to draw on. Sweaty faces and zombie makeup excel on this disc.

Predominantly night-driven, black levels reach significant density. Crush does happen, if linked more to visual effects than the disc. Dolby Vision adds its splashes in daylight, intensely bright when needed, but adding kick indoors too. Lights always bring a notable spark, creating the dimensionality expected from the format.

Heavy color grading favors blues and teals. Even in the opening scenes where primaries find a few breakout moments, there’s a definite teal push. Flesh tones take a contrasting orange hue.

Audio

While lacking the highest range/dynamics, the Dolby Atmos track still impresses. Given the near constant movement from vehicles or running undead, the positional channels perk up flawlessly. There’s energy in droves, spread wide and active, engaging stereos, rears, and heights. Inside cars that smash into zombie piles, bodies roll up and overhead on impact. Swerving cars likewise pan between channels. Gunfire sweeps the full soundstage, and at the end, a helicopter lifts off properly to sell the Atmos effects.

A throbbing score certainly engages as needed. Some pleasing thumps as the infected slam into things suggest their power. Otherwise, the thickness isn’t there, even totally lost as guns fire off rounds by the hundreds. Loud engines rumble a little, but somewhat listlessly.

Extras

On the Blu-ray only, four EPK features (a few minutes each) and trailers.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Train to Busan
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3

Movie

A decent zombie flick, Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula lacks the ingenuity seen in the first film, choosing to follow Hollywood trends.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 52 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: