Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (4K Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 23-Aug-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Featurette-Making Of-Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Music Video-Guardians Inferno
Outtakes-Outrageous Gag Reel
Deleted Scenes
Audio Commentary
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 135:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By James Gunn
Studio
Distributor
Marvel
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Dave Bautista
Michael Rooker
Karen Gillan
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper
Kurt Russell
Pom Klementieff
Elizabeth Debicki
Chris Sullivan
Sean Gunn
Laura Haddock
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Tyler Bates


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Chinese Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Chinese
German
Mandarin
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Five additional scenes

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Plot Synopsis

     2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was something of a curveball from the folks at Marvel Studios with its irreverent nature, space setting and lack of any actual superheroes in its alien ensemble. But it worked like gangbusters and movie-goers fell in love with the motley team of Guardians, propelling the endeavour to unexpected box office success. For 2017’s inevitable sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, indie filmmaker James Gunn returns to write and direct (this time penning the script solo), showing once again that he has an innate understanding of what makes this property work. To date, Marvel has not had much luck with second instalments - Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron arguably underwhelmed, though Captain America: The Winter Soldier was admittedly excellent - but luckily, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t fall victim to this apparent curse. While Vol. 2 has a lot on its mind and introduces added complexity to this world, it also retains the charms of the original picture, making for an enormously successful sequel that will almost certainly please established fans.

     Picking up not long after the events of the original movie, the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy have embraced their reputation as skilled guns-for-hire, accepting a mission from the gold-skinned Sovereign people to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster. In exchange, the team - Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) - only ask for custody of Gamora’s estranged sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan) to transport her to Xander. However, Rocket steals some of the batteries, and in retaliation the Sovereign leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) sends a fleet of remote drones to attack the Guardians ship. Crash landing on a nearby planet following the attack, the Guardians are confronted with all-powerful Celestial being Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s biological father. Despite Ego’s ostensible abandonment, Peter accepts his father’s invitation to visit his Eden-like planet, whose only other resident is his assistant, a kind-hearted empathy named Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Meanwhile, the Ravagers - led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) - are hired by Ayesha to pursue the Guardians.

     Whereas Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 were both marred by the obligation for “world-building” work, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wisely avoids this pitfall - Gunn uses the sequel to delve deeper into the principal characters with their respective personal demons and perpetual hang-ups. In turn, the scale is cut back - the majority of Vol. 2 takes place either on Ego’s planet or the Ravager ship, making for a more intimate and rewarding experience. Luckily, the plot’s ultimate trajectory was kept hidden in the trailers, allowing for some genuine surprises - particularly in regards to the primary villain and his motivation. Despite the intimacy of this tale, however, the stakes are still high, once again concerning the fate of the galaxy itself, which leaves the Guardians of the Galaxy striving to live up to their title a second time. Nevertheless, Vol. 2 does lack the snap of the original movie - it’s fine for this follow-up to delve into denser territory, but pacing is not as sure-footed and the writing is not as witty. Indeed, the humour is hit-and-miss - although there are a lot of laughs, the script tries too hard to be funny at times.

     The original Guardians of the Galaxy was characterised by its soundtrack of classic tunes, and naturally this characteristic is carried over into Vol. 2. Once again, songs provide the backdrop for amusing, memorable set-pieces, giving this sequel genuine life and energy. The opening sequence depicts an intense battle between the Guardians and a tentacled monster, but the focus is predominantly kept on Baby Groot, who merrily moves around the platform dancing to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while the carnage unfolds around him. It’s a delightful way to reacquaint audiences with this unique and colourful world, kicking off the sequel on a real high note. Equally bravura is a set-piece which depicts the full-blown massacre of well over a hundred aliens, set to the tune of “Come a Little Bit Closer.” In Gunn’s hands, the sequence is simultaneously funny and even heart-warming, which is quite a feat. Gunn also makes use of the Looking Glass song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” which is tied into the narrative, while “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens backs an enormously touching final scene. Much like the original 2014 movie, it’s wonderful to see so many vintage songs being reintroduced in contemporary pop culture.

     As to be expected from a $200 million blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 both looks and sounds superb, emerging as one of the most colourful motion pictures of the 2017 summer season. The first movie to be shot at 8K resolution with Red Weapon Dragon rigs, it’s visually resplendent from top to bottom, bolstered by imaginative production design, dynamic cinematography and vivid CGI. Of particular note is Ego’s planet, a miraculous computer-generated fantasyland which seems to be truly alive. As with similar blockbusters, while the digital effects are insanely detailed, the results do tend to look artificial rather than tangible, but it’s believable enough to sell the illusion, and both Rocket and Groot are once again miracles of motion capture. On the big screen, Vol. 2 is one hell of an experience. Composer Tyler Bates (a regular Gunn collaborator) also makes his return here, and his compositions are layered and flavoursome, even bringing back the Guardians theme established in the original movie. There is such a thing as too much money, however - the enormous, prolonged climax does get a bit much, at times losing sight of the intimacy of this story. Although there are some excellent character moments and the ultimate dénouement is touching as hell, the sequence does feel excessive and may test your patience.

     The astute character work of the original feature is thankfully carried over to Vol. 2 - Peter still has a thinly-veiled crush on Gamora, and Drax is still hilariously incapable of actually thinking before he speaks. Bautista continues to score laughs with each unfiltered thing he says, working to keep the flick feeling bubbly and fun even when it dabbles in darker subject matter. Pratt, meanwhile, remains note-perfect as Star-Lord, emanating charm and effortlessly handling the weightier material within this particular story. Interesting to note, Marvel Studios do not own the movie rights to the character of Ego - they actually reside over at Fox with the X-Men rights. Gunn was initially unaware of this when he started penning the screenplay for Vol. 2, but luckily Fox ultimately permitted his presence in the movie, which is fortunate because the story heavily hinges on Ego. Russell is a total gem in the role, handling the multiple layers with ease, and he shares terrific chemistry with Pratt. The movie’s opening scene set in 1980 uncannily de-ages Russell through a combination of make-up and CGI, making him look the same as he did in movies like Escape from New York and The Thing. Elsewhere in the cast, Rooker is still an utter gift as Yondu, while Sylvester Stallone also manages to make a positive impression despite his minor role as a Ravager. Another newcomer is Klementieff, a terrific find as Mantis. Marvel legend Stan Lee also drops in for his trademark cameo, and in doing so Gunn finds a way to ostensibly link all of his prior cameos and apparently confirm a longstanding fan theory that he always plays the same character. Who expected that?!

     Although I do admit that I had more raw fun with the original Guardians of the Galaxy, there is much to appreciate about this sequel, with its luscious eye-candy and thrilling action sequences. It goes to deeper and weirder places, the chemistry between the ensemble cast is still brilliantly palpable, and the superb soundtrack further contributes to the infectiously fun vibe. Above all that, however, Vol. 2’s emotionally resonant conclusion will stick with you after the end credits expire, and you will once again be left wanting to see another instalment. Gunn is currently set to return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which would denote the first time in Marvel history that a director has seen a trilogy through. As ever, there is a post-credits scene...which follows four other additional scenes during the credits.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Hallelujah - Disney has finally boarded the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray train, over a year after the format first debuted. Indeed, Disney is the last major studio to adopt 4K Blu-ray, which is good news for such an amazing new format that deserves a long shelf life. Gunn has stated on social media that he begged and pleaded Disney to spearhead a 4K release, and we can now reap the benefits in our home cinemas. Additionally, Gunn also stated that he spent a lot of time working on the release and the HDR grade to ensure it's the best possible presentation of the movie. Well, his efforts have paid off. As stated in my review of the movie itself, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was captured at 8K using Red Weapon Dragon cameras, though it was reportedly only completed at 2K, presumably making this an upscale directly from the digital intermediate. The resulting 2160p presentation is presented with a HEVC/H.265 encode, framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (note that the movie is not opened up to 1.85:1 during its IMAX sequences).

     No surprises here - this 4K presentation is a serious improvement over the standard Blu-ray. While there is a subtle increase in detail, it's the colour and use of HDR (encoded in HDR10 as opposed to Dolby Vision) where this disc really shines. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a seriously colourful movie, and it consistently looks bolder and more vivid here compared to its 1080p counterpart. Blacks are deeper and contrast is much improved, giving the presentation much more depth as a result. However, the movie is also deliberate with its palette, looking gorgeously saturated in some scenes and a tad muted in others, ostensibly remaining true to director James Gunn's intentions. Since the movie has the entire disc to itself, the presentation has plenty of room to breathe.

     Unsurprisingly, the UHD transfer is razor-sharp, with exceptional delineation allowing you to discern every hair in close-ups, and even in medium shots. Visual details are certainly better brought out thanks to the increased resolution, revealing more tangible textures on Drax's skin (an insane achievement in make-up effects) and better resolving the intricate costumes. Close-ups of faces, meanwhile, reveal every pore and wrinkle. However, from a detail perspective, this particular presentation is not among the best that the format has to offer. Vol. 2 was shot using Red cameras, which tend to create a smoother-looking image, revealing less detail than Arri Alexa rigs. The UHD presentation of 2017's Power Rangers - also shot with Red - is exactly the same in this sense, even though that production was natively finished at 4K. Resolution is one thing, but lens quality is another. However, I don't believe this is a fault of the encode, as I recall thinking the exact same thing whilst watching the movie at the cinema during its theatrical run. Therefore, this shortcoming traces back to the source, and Disney has done an amazing job of authoring the disc with no encoding-related issues.

     Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and Disney continues releasing Marvel movies on 4K Blu-ray. Both Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange were given Dolby Vision HDR grades and would seriously benefit from an UHD upgrade. Fingers crossed that we soon see Star Wars on the format, too. Overall, this is the superior presentation of a fine comic book movie, and although I would have preferred that Dolby Vision was included on the disc, I'll take this over no 4K release at all. (In the United States, a Dolby Vision version is available for streaming, but no such facilities currently exist in Australia.) Perhaps we'll see a double dip further down the line, when Dolby Vision is truly ready for primetime.

     Subtitles are available. The English track posed no issues to my eyes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Here's another first - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes to 4K Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos mix, an improvement over the DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix available on both the standard Blu-ray and the 3D Blu-ray. This is the first time that Disney has released a title on home video with Dolby Atmos, which should please audiofiles around the world. I cannot comment on the quality of the Atmos track compared to the 7.1 mix, however, as I only have a 7.1 system, therefore my thoughts on the audio mix remain unchanged. However, I am bumping up the overall star rating to reflect the Atmos upgrade.

     Surround activity and panning is exceptional from start to finish. When the Sovereign drones attack the Guardians ship, blaster fire erupts from all channels, as do explosions and the sounds of ships zipping around. When Peter flies around during the climax, asking his comrades if they have any tape, each of his conversations come through a different speaker, making you feel as if Peter really is moving around. Ambience is used effectively throughout - during scenes set on Ego's planet, the channels are filled with subtle ambience to make the planet feel alive. Contrary to Disney's blunder with the limp audio mix on Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, sound effects are booming and effective throughout Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, thanks to marvellous subwoofer activity to accentuate each explosion and gunshot.

     Music - both Tyler Bates's original score, and the array of classic songs on the soundtrack - come through clearly, and never overwhelm other audio elements within any given scene. Dialogue remains front-centric for the most part, and there are no issues with the mixing of the dialogue - it's clear and easy to understand. There are no problems with clarity or encoding - no pops, clicks, sync issues, or any other glitches. It's smooth sailing across the board. No complaints from me.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The 4K disc itself contains no supplemental material. However, the included standard Blu-ray has a fair few special features.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell, all 4K editions worldwide are identical. Supplemental material on standard 1080p Blu-rays across all territories is also the same. Buy local.

Summary

     Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a summer blockbuster that manages to be exciting, touching and deep, though it's not exactly one for the uninitiated. It was a riot in the cinema, and it holds up at home. I'm not sure if Vol. 3 can top it, but count me in all the same.

     At last, a Marvel Cinematic Universe production has debuted on 4K Blu-ray, more than a year after the format debuted. Although it's not the best UHD presentation I've seen, it's certainly the superior version of the movie and it really shows the benefits of High Dynamic Range. The Atmos track is pitch-perfect, and the included 1080p Blu-ray comes with a variety of worthwhile special features. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSamsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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