Thursday, August 24, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Cinematic Universe Edition) 4K Ultra HD Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 marks the Studios first in-home title to release in stunning 4K Ultra HD format, providing consumers with the ultimate home entertainment experience with next-generation high dynamic range visuals and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the film’s storyline continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians (Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket) must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. This blockbuster sequel featuring the world’s favorite band of intergalactic misfits, blasts into homes Digitally in HD and 4K Ultra HD on Aug. 8 and 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray on Aug. 22.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
By the conclusion of the first Guardians film, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana),Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper, and baby Groot (Vin Diesel) have put their differences behind and united as the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop Ronan the Destroyer from obliterating the planet Xandar. Cut to months later with this film and the group has regressed back to fighting with each other and wondering if they want to be a part of this family or not. Sure, they fight together really well as we see from the start when they're successfully fighting an inter-dimensional creature, but once the fighting stops they start fighting amongst themselves. Their situation isn't helped by the fact that by completing their job, their payment is the cranky Nebula (Karen Gillan) who still has a huge grudge against her sister Gamora.

Rocket, in particular is going out of his way to antagonize everyone and he's also the one who inadvertently kicks the movie off by stealing some powerful batteries from their employer Ayesha of the Sovereigns (Elizabeth Debicki). Ayesha doesn't appreciate that and she sends her fleet to destroy the Guardians, only to see them destroyed by a mysterious figure who is later revealed to be Ego (Kurt Russell), a celestial who is also Peter's father. Ego wants to reconnect with his son and to show him the planet that he's created and to explain their family history and how he's been looking for Peter for years.

In the meantime, the Sovereign have hired Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his ravagers to track down the Guardians for them. There's infighting amongst the ravagers as well, as some of the crew led by Taserface (Chris Sullivan) who are ready to mutiny over Yondu's reluctance to kill Peter Quill. Yondu also is struggling with the fact his expulsion from the overall Ravagers group thanks to a bad decision he made years before shows no sign of lessening. That lack of status and the loss of his friendships with his former crew including Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) still stings, especially when he runs into Stakar who wants nothing to do with him. Peter has his own issues to work out as he learns more and more of his parents' history and Ego's ultimate plans.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great movie, but it's a little frustrating to see the group taking one step forward and two steps back from the first movie. I would have preferred more of a progression of the story but that's not to say that this film's story isn't a good one because it is. The best of the film is the cautious relationship between Ego and Peter. Kurt Russell was an inspired choice to play Peter Quill's father as you can see a straight line from his previous roles to this one. All of the cast are great especially Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, and Russell who deliver fantastic performances. The special effects are pretty spectacular and director James Gunn continues to deliver heartfelt and fun sequences along with more of the great music that helped the first film so much. In this film, the music is deployed even more effectively, especially Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" which is used twice in the film to great effect. This is a great movie that fires on all cylinders for the entire family.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)
This is the first 4K Ultra HD release for Disney and they've done a great job with their debut to the ultra high def market. This set offers a 4K disc, a Blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy of the film. Only the digital copy apparently has the Dolby Vision included. The rest of them look great until you pop in the 4K disc which blows the Blu-ray and DVD out of the water. The colors are much more vibrant on the 4K release and the detail is much more impressive. The black levels are solid and deep and it's easy to say that the 4K is the best version to watch. I just wish they had included the 3D disc in this "Cinematic Universe" set instead of making it an exclusive at Best Buy. 
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's 4K Dolby Atmos track is also an improvement over the also excellent Blu-ray's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. The Dolby Atmos provides a more immersive and fuller experience, especially during the action sequences. The surround channels are well used and very accurate and the dialogue is crystal clear in both versions. The music and the score also greatly benefit from both mixes and they sound great in both. This is a reference quality Dolby Atmos track.  
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
While the UHD itself has no extras on it, the Blu-ray does provide them and the DVD has some as well. Here are the extras included:
  • Visionary Intro - Director James Gunn talks about continuing the story from the first film.
  • Audio Commentary - Director James Gunn gives an entertaining and informative discussion about the movie, his goals, the cast, the story, and more.
  • Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Instead of doing a long featurette, this one has been broken into four parts by topic, Fortunately, you can play all at once if you'd like. 
    • In the Director's Chair with James Gunn - Director James Gunn talks about the success of the first film and what drove the sequel. He and the cast also speak admiringly about each other.  
    • Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - As music plays such a big part in these movies, this featurette is devoted to it. All involved believe that the soundtrack for Vol. 2 is better than the first one. Gunn also mentions that he thinks ELO is the band for the Guardians.
    • Living Planets and Talking Trees: The Visual Effects of Vol. 2 - A look at the spectacular special effects from the film.
    • Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2 - A ten minute look at the cast and how well they all get along.
  • Music Video (Guardians Inferno by The Sneepers Ft. David Hasselhoff.) - I've got to admit that this cheesy 70s style music video is my favorite extra on the set. Most of the guardians are included in the video and I can't get the catchy song written by James Gunn and composer Tyler Bates out of my head.  
  • Gag Reel - A short collection of clips showing the cast messing up and fooling around. It's enjoyable enough but pretty brief. 
  • Deleted Scenes - We get four deleted scenes including: "Adolescent Groot Extended, "Memorial to the War on Xandar," "Kraglin and Quill Talk Tunes," and "Mantis and Drax Feel the Sadness Extended."
  • Blu-ray copy of the film
  • Digital copy of the film
  • Guardians Inferno poster
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another fun jaunt with the cast from the first movie. If you loved the first movie, then you will definitely love this one too. It has the same sense of fun and adventure that's propelled with some of the greatest music from the 70s. This 4K Ultra High Def set offers reference quality video and audio and the extras while not as great, are still fun to watch especially the music video. This set is highly recommended!

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