Adventure Blu-ray Review

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: Even more fun than the first

August 22, 2017Ben MK

A tongue-in-cheek romp that vaulted the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the stratosphere and beyond, 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy also set the stage for the comic book franchise to tackle a whole new series of storylines, ranging from the submicroscopic (Ant-Man) to the supernatural (Doctor Strange). Now, writer/director James Gunn and his ragtag crew of intergalactic misfits, outcasts and miscreants are back. But with all the ground that's been broken by its forebears, is there any room left for this sequel to innovate?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 reintroduces its main characters in the most smile-inducing way possible. A battle on the planet Sovereign pits our heroes — Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) — against a multi-tentacled, multidimensional beast. But what makes this sequence special is how it mostly relegates the action to the background, focusing instead on Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, voicing a sapling version of the Guardians' arboreal enforcer), as he boogies through the chaos to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky."

It's a fun reminder of what set the original apart from the rest of the MCU, and it segues neatly into the story proper, as the Guardians find themselves on the run from a Sovereign attack fleet, Gamora's bloodthirsty sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), in tow. A pursuit through an asteroid field ensues (no doubt inspired by The Empire Strikes Back), and soon Star-Lord (real name: Peter Quill) is face-to-face with his long-lost dad, Ego (Kurt Russell), a celestial being who enjoys long walks on his home planet, not to mention relaxing to Looking Glass' "Brandy You're a Fine Girl."

Needless to say, Vol. 2 does culminate in yet another high-stakes battle for the fate of the galaxy. And while the path it takes to get there manages to surprise, it works in the film's favor, allowing it to explore relationships like the tenuous father-son dynamic between Ego and Peter, Gamora and Nebula's sibling rivalry, and the unexpected team-up of Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Rocket. The result defies the rule-of-thumb that sequel number two ought to be darker and more brooding. On the contrary, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is even more fun than the first.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's unique visual aesthetic shines through brilliantly in 4K, from fully CG characters like Rocket and Baby Groot to fantastical locales like Ego's planet, with all of its ornate structures and lush vegetation. However, it's the film's vibrant and varied color palette that truly benefits from this Ultra HD presentation. Whether it's the gold and navy blue tones of the Sovereign or the rainbows spewed by the creature known as the Abilisk, HDR elevates the movie to a whole new level. And it's made even better by the inclusion of a Dolby Atmos sound mix that not only does right by the film's classic rock soundtrack — featuring tunes from Fleetwood Mac, Jay and the Americans and more — but which also fully immerses viewers in the sounds of explosions, laser fire and enemy spaceships as they come at our heroes from all directions.

Disney's two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy, as well as a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray:

  • Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (37:39) - A four-part, behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew's experience working with James Gunn, composer Tyler Bates' score and how the songs in the soundtrack have been incorporated into the narrative, the film's distinct visual aesthetic and the visual effects magic behind the creation of Baby Groot and Ego's planet, and what the various cast members bring to the movie ("In the Director's Chair with James Gunn," "Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "Living Planets and Talking Trees: The Visual Effects of Vol. 2" and "Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2").
  • "Guardians Inferno" Music Video (3:35) - The official video for the end-credits song by The Sneepers Ft. David Hasselhoff.
  • Gag Reel (3:41) - Goofs and flubs from the set.
  • Deleted Scenes (5:04) - Four scenes ("Adolescent Groot Extended," "Memorial to the War on Xandar," "Kraglin and Quill Talk Tunes" and "Mantis and Drax Feel the Sadness Extended").
  • Audio Commentary by Director James Gunn - Gunn talks about the story, the visual effects, the Easter eggs, the cast, their characters and their performances, the color palette, the production and costume design, the songs, the most challenging scenes to shoot, and more.
  • James Gunn Visionary Intro (1:39) - The option to watch the film with a brief intro by the writer/director.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of August 22nd, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, English and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 16 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on May 4th, 2017.

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