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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

As is every summer, Marvel kicks it off with its latest and greatest. 2017 saw the hotly anticipated to their surprise hit from a few years back, the (At the time) dice rolling Guardians of the Galaxy.  And of course the film was a big damn hit.  James Gunn has shown he really has a handle on the source material and the film universe and characters he’s crafting as well. Its fantastic news that he will be returning for a third volume of the adventures of Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax and what will be Adolescent Groot. Also fantastic new, James Gunn has willed his way and gotten his wish to have the film released on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format, making it Disney’s first. The director campaigned for it all throughout his post production and press tour, having shot the film in 8K and not wanting his blasting of colors in the film to go to waste. You’ll be able to check out Disney and Marvel’s first foray into this exciting new format on August 22nd. And might I recommend you pre-order using the Amazon link below.

Film 

Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter’s parentage is revealed.

James Gunn truly develops a story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. that feels it is the next logical chapter, a further study of the characters and something that felt it has a reason to exist aside from money and franchise building. Its not always as successful as the first film was, but its still a worthy successor, a unique tale in its own right and a nice test and affirmation for our heroes. Its one that realizes the important factors of the first film, incorporating them, but not afraid to take on new challenges and continue down the narrative line for the plotting and the universe that makes Guardians unique.

In its first act, the second adventure of Peter Quill and company both impressed and stumbles. It does good on instantly bringing you back to the world and characters you loved. The opening credits sequence is an all timer in the Marvel world, clever and well thought out as well follow Baby Groot dancing to ELO while a major battle is happening around him. However, some of the character stuff to remind us who these heroes are gets to be a bit much. They all bicker and get snarky with each other like a bunch of assholes and its not very fun. I get that’s mostly the intention Gunn is trying to make, but it also renders four of them to be overlapping and monotonous and kind of boring in that regard. Also, we all liked Drax in the first film, and they ramp him up to 11 here in the first act making it a bit too much to hand. He’s almost relegating to a laughing buffoon. Seriously, he laughs hysterically nonstop for the first half hour.

This all course corrects itself as we delve into the story of Star Lord’s reconnecting with his dad, the celestial Ego played by Kurt Russell. And boy, Russell is a lot of fun here and a perfect choice for this part and one of the biggest pluses of the film. Many have complained about the weak villains in the Marvel cinematic universe, but Ego may be the exception to the rule. He’s a strong candidate for best non-Loki villain. A strong case for that is because we get to spend a lot of time with him. Granted, we don’t know he’s a villain for most of it, but that’s the genius of the ordeal. The plot of Guardians Vol. 2 is basically an entire movie being the Han Solo and Princess Leia arrive on Cloud City portion of The Empire Strikes Back. Ego essentially gets to be both the Lando Calrissian and Darth Vader of the situation. Ego’s “diabolical plan” is also pretty damn unique for any fantasy space movie, let alone a comic book film. Its grandiose in a fashion we don’t ever see, while also being pretty horrific in learning its orgins. It makes for a great emotional journey and exploration for Star Lord as well as the others during this time as Gamora comes to blows with her sister Nebula on the side and Rocket faces the possible horrors of continuing on the path he’s on.

James Gunn is the most stylistic director on the Marvel payroll currently and his personal touch is felt much more in these Guardians films than the others (Though I’ll argue Scott Derrickson’s work on Doctor Strange is up there). With his second Guardians of the Galaxy entry, the weirdness, confidence and boldness to tackle weird characters, technology and territories/planets takes things even further and all the while feeling very true to the material and right at home. Nothing that’s new feels off or weird, just moreso expanding and a logical extension from where we were in the last film. What we get added to this film is color. Yes, color, and lots of it. Gunn has blasted quite the rainbow of a palette on this new journey. He also captured it with the Red Weapon camera at 8K. It was both a dazzler in the theater and here at home on the 4K Ultra-HD format as well. In times where we see a lot of dingy films or stuff bleached of color (Especially Marvel has been accused, with facts, of grading out popping color in post), its refreshing someone not be afraid to go in the extreme opposite direction and fully embrace something so bright.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. returns everyone you love, Star Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Groot, Drax and Yondu (Michael Rooker totally steals this movie, “I’m Mary Poppins, ya’ll”) and progresses their journey, opening up their world and introducing us to more history and some new characters. Surprisingly, its a little bit of a slow-burn plot, but it really does pay off in building and capitalizing on the emotional stakes and arcs for the characters in the film. The action is on point, big and very different from last time, most of Marvel and the kind you don’t get in space fantasy too much. I really liked the soundtrack of this one too, as the song choices aren’t always obvious crowd pleasers or easy ones that craft a pre-existing emotional/nostalgic feeling opting for ones that can be remembered as being in this movie rather than just being “Oh this one again”. And any use of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” as well as ELO is fine by me. James Gunn’s film sometimes improves upon the previous film and reaches its heights at times, but ultimately doesn’t topple it. And you know what? That’s fine. It doesn’t have to be. It still a terrific movie and good sequel. Oh, because I have no other place for this, the design and presentation of the end credits is just really, really rad.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Welcome to the wonderful world of 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, Disney! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was shot in 8K using the Red Weapon camera.  For this physical home release, it contains HDR-10 and not Dolby Vision. You CAN find Dolby Vision on Vudu (According to Disney, Dolby Vision for discs is still in a testing phase and wasn’t ready for this release). It also features a hybrid of scenes that are 2K upscaled and 4K. And with that knowledge, the image here definitely makes sense. For the first half of the film, the image waivers between looking great and looking really good. Yeah, I know that sounds silly, but while some of the image looks “really good” you can easily imagine it looking better. There is something with the depth and motion of the film in these spots that feel very much akin to a standard Blu-ray in their feel rather than what you’ve seen on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. There is also a bit of softness to the live action portions of footage, making one feel it could be a bit sharper and more crisp. However, the second half of the film is a dazzling and mesmerizing experience matching wits with some of the best we’ve seen on the format. The highlight of the whole thing is the CGI in the film. Any and all of it looks absolutely gorgeous, full of crisp and sharp detail and incredible coloring that lifts it off the screen. From “Come a Little Bit Closer” until the finish, we are treated to an HDR coloring dreamworld. When you witness this, you’ll think back to the opening credits sequence of the film and wonder why it wasn’t looking up to snuff with the finish (Though I stress this as an observation, as it looks fine overall). Disney has done well with this launch here, and I have a feeling Pirates is going to the quite a treat given the tropical nature of those films.

Depth:  While still pretty strong, this was an overall weaker part of the presentation for me. One would expect a more free, loose, three dimensional looking image with confident camera movements and the like. And, yes, there are no really serious problems or anything, but it plays more like a top of the line standard Blu-ray image for most of the film rather than the very smooth and very detached three dimensional without glass 4K Ultra-HD look. Especially with this shot in 8K, you’d think it would have more. Now, there are moments, primarily the ones heavily doused in CGI without a real human presence that do pull this off.

Black Levels: Blacks are nice, deep and well saturated here. The black of space looks lovely and many of the darker interior scenes have a nice palette of different shade of black finding good definition and keeping detail intact. And when things go pitch black, they are just dark room deading black. Many of the costumes in the film are dark in their nature, be it black, gray, brown and they really manage to keep detail while maintaining what appears to be a lifelike and natural look to them. Shading also comes with some good accuracy and the brightness of Ego’s planet looks a little dimmer here than the standard Blu-ray, but in a nice effect has a nice sort of true to life feel of a sunny day like that. No crushing was witnessed on the viewing for this review. Just a good looking presentation of blacks as a 4K Ultra-HD should.

Color Reproduction: Here’s the real beauty to this entire release. The HDR goes nutso on this film and really pushes and displays the eye candy. Its so damn fun, I almost wanted to ignore some things and just give this a straight 5, overlooks some very minor faults (Nit picks, honestly) on the transfer. There is a rainbow of stuff on display here and it just looks insane at times. The make-up on characters like Gamora and Yondu pops distinctly. Hell, Yondu even looks like he’s glowing in his first scene, while Stallone is wearing a jacket with this orange yellow thing that lifts off. Speaking of Yondu, the trail of read left by his arrow stings the screen (And yes, THAT scene is friggin’ awesome). Explosions have a blast of orange with a palette of that and yellow to just toss right at you on the screen. Electricity really zaps as well. ANYTHING CGI in this movie is super groovy. Pastel colors just burst here like a leprechaun vomiting in a pot of gold. Seriously, the start of this movie will have you going “Well, this looks good, but…” but by after the entire final battle and the Ravager funeral ritual, you’ll be changing your tune and whiping the drool from the side of your mouth.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural or their natural blues or green, staying consistent through to the end of the film. Facial features like markings, tattoos, make-up texture, stubble, freckles, glitter and wrinkles all look very clear in close-ups and similar in most medium shots with a decent amount going for it in the more pulled back far away shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, German 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Cantonese, Mandarin

Dynamics: Not only has Disney jumped into the 4K picture game with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but they’re doubling down and tackling Atmos as well. And my, they have aced it right out of the gate. Guardians Vol. 2 is a boom, fully realized, distinct presentation featuring great balance in the mix with the score, songs, vocals and effects all getting their own spotlight and never overlapping another contributor. The songs all get a sort of different feel to them in the mix, but they all have a crisp and loose uncompressed sound to them. Effects in the film are varied in their engineering and well-rounded and layered in their result in this mix. The environments and action are well timed and preside all over the room to really bring this science fiction fantasy comic book operatic adaptation to life.

Height: The ceiling speakers do have a presence in this mix, but primarily only when they are really needed in an event in the film. An arrow whipping over or a ship making a clear pass by are some examples. There are times of ambiance for it too. It doesn’t really get abused like the film would, understandably, lend itself to be being a bit overdone.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer really is a star of this mix and bring the thunder with pounding the room any chance it need be. Blaster fire, loud crashing creatures, punches, explosions, ships roaring through space, video game noises, bass and drums in the music all have a good bump. And there is a nice range and balance to the amount of intensity with which the LFE charges, too.

Surround Sound Presentation: This Atmos track makes no waste of utilize the entire space of your viewing area for its sound. Of course travel is accurate and has a lot of fun moving all over with good precision and gusto. What is great, too is the unique sounds and pinpointing them to a specific area in the room. A great sequence to really appreciate what they’ve done is when Yondu’s crew is creeping up on Rocket, Nebula and Baby group at the crashes ship. You hear the radio and him humming at different times in different places as well as the chasing around and different guys getting bumped around in places. Many other scenes feature plenty of things, ambiance and beyond. One of the coolest constants though, is the radio sound of music playing (Not when its in full swing, when it sounds like its coming from head phones or crummy speakers) and where they’ll choose to put it (Not random, accurate to where they’re on screen).

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clear, with good detail on the characters’ diction with extra breaths or sounds from their mouth as they speak. Impressively, during big action moments or ones heavy in sound, you still can hear them perfectly by any intended loudness of their conversation or action (Yell, normal speak, whisper).

Extras 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes with the Blu-ray edition, an UltraViolet Digital Copy and a “Guardians Inferno” poster. The 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray disc contains no extras, they are all on the standard Blu-ray.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director James Gunn

Featurettes

  • Bonus Round: The Making Of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (HD, 37:39) – This goes over everyone getting back together and being surprised by the success of the first, you also get a piece on James Gunn, the song choices for the film, going bigger in terms of the scale and worlds seen in the film and of course the cast.
  • “Guardians Inferno” Music Video (HD, 3:35) – The Sneepers and David Hasselhoff unite for a modern Disco classic!

Gag Reel (HD, 3:41) 

Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:04)

Summary 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great follow up and compliment to the first film. James Gunn really opens up things and reaches some newer heights and territory in his sequel. Plus, its got Kurt Friggin’ Russell as the bad guy. Enough said. Disney ventures out for the first time on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a very successful presentation that will wow you quite well with its colors in HDR on the video presentation and bounce you around the room with their first Atmos track. Extras here are the essentials and there’s no real dead weight. The poster is a really cool touch, too. This is a pretty successful launch for the Disney 4K experience and we know you’re picking this movie up, this is EASILY the preferred method of doing so.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Kanyon

    Hy,
    Thank you for this review. Iam a little suprised…is there really a german audio track on this us release? That would be awesome 🙂

  2. Brandon Peters

    Yes, there is a German audio track. I’m hoping its because of Zardu Hasselfrau.