Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 4K/3D (Best Buy Exclusive SteelBook)
- Street Date:
- August 22nd, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- August 23rd, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- Disney/Buena Vista
- 137 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the standard, day-and-date Blu-ray and Ultra HD release, also written by M. Enois Duarte. Specifically, this review features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections, while both reviews share The Movie Itself, Audio, and Special Features.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
If there is one thing James Gunn has demonstrated in the last few years of his two-decade filmmaking career, it's that when left to his own wildly-whimsical devices, he can catch lightning in a bottle. His first two theatrical features, Slither and Super, didn't leave much of an impression at the box-office, but both films are today well-regarded cult favorites, better appreciated for being clever insights at genre formula. In 2014, he amazingly managed to turn a relatively little-known and near-forgotten comic book series into a cultural phenomenon, surprising the expectations of everyone. Three years later, Gunn returned to write and helm Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, pulling off another miracle by being significantly better than anticipated or as lead to believe by the previews. Although it doesn't surpass the first movie, which for some is debatable, the direct follow-up nonetheless proudly joins the list of superhero sequels that are just as good as their predecessors. Gunn and his talented team maintain the same level of energy and humor as before, centered around the camaraderie and chemistry of a ragtag band of reluctant heroes.
Of course, as tends to be the curse of most sequels, much of the plot in this second installment is largely a rehash of what worked in the first movie. Only, those same plot points have been reshuffled and rearranged in such a way as to be barely perceptible. After opening with another musical dance number, the gang is once again hunted through the galaxy for stealing a valuable artifact. Only this time, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is the one pinching a handful of batteries from a gold-colored race known as the Sovereign, and the ploy is used for generating tensions between the crew, forcing them to learn to work together at the opportune time while pushing the theme of family. Meanwhile, the arrogantly smarmy Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) continues fancying Gamora (Zoe Saldana) from a distance, but she's too proud to be admired and busy reeling from family problems, namely her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Michael Rooker, too, returns as the blue-skinned buccaneer Yondu chasing after Quill while also acting suspiciously forgiving of Quill's betrayals, which leads to resentment from his merry band of Ravagers.
Again, the sequel is largely constructed from recycled parts of its predecessor, but thankfully, this is not to the film's hindrance. In fact, the real success of Gunn's plot, the smart thing for making a good sequel, is that he expanded on the events and themes of the first Guardians. The story feels more like a continuation rather than a haphazard add-on to a franchise. Drax (Dave Bautista) is finally grasping humor and sarcasm but still struggles with the concept that his straightforward, blunt honesty could be inappropriate, with some of the movie's funniest moments coming from his interactions with the empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff). At the same time, Yondu and Rocket are given more prominent roles, allowing them to reflect on their "a-hole" attitudes and providing the story an unexpected pathos. Part of this new emotional center also comes from Peter meeting his father Ego (Kurt Russell), the physical incarnation of an ancient celestial that evolved into a sentient planet. Gunn builds and builds all this gooey emotional stuff to the point of gushing over, hitting audiences right in the feels with what is frankly one of the most heartbreaking, tear-jerking sequences in all of the Marvel universe.
However, Gunn balances all this sentimentalism, making that tearful moment as though out of nowhere, with a great deal of humor and a few fanboy allusions. Other than seeing Howard the Duck (Seth Green) in another silly cameo, teasing fans with the idea of the character being given a film all to himself, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is also populated by the likes of Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord, one of the original members in the Guardians comics. His little spat with Yondu on Contraxia is a reference to the comics where Yondu first sported his "prototype" fin and was the leader of the Guardians. Later, other original members — Aleta (Michelle Yeoh), Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames), Mainframe (an uncredited Miley Cyrus), Krugarr and Martinex — also make brief appearances, hinting at the possibility of seeing more of them. There are plenty more Easter eggs throughout, but I'll leave the rest for viewers to hunt. In the end, the sequel is an excellent follow-up to the first movie, a lighthearted popcorn flick that lives up to the spirit of the summer blockbuster, one that is equally visually mesmerizing and exciting as it is fun and hilarious.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brings Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — Ultra HD to Blu-ray as a three-disc SteelBook combo pack with a code for a Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via RedeemGuardians.com but ONLY good for the HD version in a variety of streaming apps. A Region Free, BD50 disc sits on the panel opposite two more discs, a 4K Ultra HD comfortably atop a 3D Blu-ray, and all three are inside a lightly embossed metallic case, which is exclusive to Best Buy. At startup, owners are taken directly to a neon-colored 3D menu screen with the standard options along the bottom, music and full-motion clips.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Invading as many video formats as possible, the ragtag group of misfit heroes also save the universe armed with a beautiful 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode that wonderfully shows off the busy, vibrant cinematography of Henry Braham. The movie was shot with 3D in mind and later converted in post, using alternating aspect ratios to better take advantage of the technology and IMAX screens. And this exclusive 3D Blu-ray remains faithful to the filmmakers' intentions, changing from a 2.40:1 aspect ratio to a 1.90:1 window for certain scenes, most commonly during action sequences.
Compared to the standard 2D version, this is arguably the best way to watch the movie in HD. Separation between the foreground and background objects is excellent, often creating a realistic 3D world with a great sense of distance and space, especially during exterior shots where there are lots of busy activity in the background or whenever walking through Ego's palace. Some of the best shots, in fact, are those inside Quill's ship, like the escape from the Sovereign where the far end of the ship penetrates deep into the screen while Quill and Rocket argue in the front, practically popping out at viewers. The film provides a variety of 3D gimmick shots, most notably when arriving at Ego's planet and colorful bubbles appear as though suspended in the middle of the room or whenever Yondu uses his arrow. And rather than make viewers wait for IMAX-style sequences to enjoy those gimmicks, the filmmakers also make great use of the 2.40:1 frame with debris, random objects and a couple shots of spaceships flying into the black matte sections, adding a bit of pop to the image. Overall, the presentation is one of the best post-conversion jobs available, displaying a consistently great deal of 3D depth throughout.
The other aspects of the video remain the same as the standard Blu-ray. In spite of the darkened glasses, lush, sumptuous primaries ooze off the screen with giddy delight, keeping everything light and animated, while Ego's planet parades about with an extensive array of loud, vivid secondary hues, making the sentient world appear like a beautiful phantasmagoric dream. Spot-on contrast provides a comfortably bright and glowing presentation with sparkling, brilliant whites throughout. Interestingly, brightness levels are slightly improved, probably thanks to the glasses, but either way, blacks are rich and true, providing an appreciable cinematic quality and dimensionality while retaining excellent visibility during poorly-lit sequences and shadow details, exposing the tiniest object and feature within the darkest areas of the frame.
The picture also shows outstanding definition and resolution. Shot entirely on the Red Weapon Dragon camera system, the freshly-minted digital transfer displays sharp, fine lines in nearly every scene. The loose wires and exposed pipes of Quill's ship are plainly visible while the most negligible scratch and imperfection everywhere gives the ship some character. The lettering in buttons is distinct and legible, the thick threading in the costumes are unmistakable, and the elaborate architectural design of Ego's palace is easy to make out. For more observant viewers, the makeup work of Gamora, Drax and Nebula will reveal the most trifling and insignificant detail, adding to their realistic appearance, and the individual hairs of Rocket and the cracks in Groot's rough bark body are discrete and often striking. Facial complexions beneath the makeup appear natural with lifelike textures. Sadly, there are several moments that look softer than others, most of which is related to the CG imagery and Ego's planet, the latter of which may be deliberate. Nevertheless, the high-def presentation is awesome!
The Audio: Rating the Sound
For this 3D version of the summer blockbuster, Disney equips the two-time galaxy savers with the same awesome DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, sure to rock the house with several demo-worthy moments to impress friends. Two such moments that immediately stand out are the Guardians' escape from the Sovereign's drone fleet and the savagely brutal fight between Nebula and Gamora on Ego's planet. In each of these scenes, the surrounds really come alive as the small spaceships zoom in ever which direction and flawlessly pan from behind the room to the front. Of course, the sequence to beat these two is the climactic showdown between the Guardians, Ego and the Sovereign while at the sentient planet's core. Once again, ships fly all around and the blasts of gunfire are discretely employed throughout various speakers, fully immersing the listener into the thick of battle. Quieter scenes come with subtle ambient effects, generating and maintaining a terrifically satisfying 360° soundfield.
Imaging is also continuously active, exhibiting superb detailing and clarity in the midrange. The loudest and most rambunctious moments, of which there are several, sustain extraordinary precision and fidelity in the higher frequencies, keeping the action playful and highly engaging with effective off-screen activity. Tyler Bates's musical score, too, reveals superb distinction and separation in the orchestration as it's spread across the entire screen, creating a splendidly spacious soundstage. Amid all the rowdy merriment and comical chaos, the back and forth dialogue is very well-prioritized and consistently intelligible, never drowned out by the colorful mayhem. The action would greatly benefit from a more authoritative low-end, but that's a really small objection due to personal preference. Aside from that, the bass is quite robust and hearty, providing the film with presence and appreciable depth, making this a fantastic lossless mix.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
The following supplements are also available on the Blu-ray and Digital Copies (but you'll have to redeem your digital copy to check out the digital-exclusive Three Scene Breakdowns and behind-the scenes look at Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout):
Audio Commentary: Writer/director James Gunn rides solo for a delightfully amusing and often enlightening commentary track. The filmmaker occasionally has the habit of narrating the on-screen action, but for the most part, he shares his thoughts on the themes, his creative decisions, and various anecdotes.
Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (HD): A short four-piece doc breaks down various aspects of the production from the director's creative style, the role music plays throughout both films, the production's visual effects and a discussion on the chemistry of the cast.
In the Director's Chair with James Gunn (9 min)
Reunion Tour: The Music (8 min)
Living Planets and Talking Trees: The Visual Effects (11 min)
Showtime: The Cast (11 min)
Visionary Intro (HD, 2 min): Gunn returns, introducing the story's place in the Marvel universe.
Music Video (1080i/60, 4 min): The Sneepers perform "Guardians Inferno" in a surprisingly funny, retro-style music video that features the voice talents of David Hasselhoff.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min):
Adolescent Groot Extended
Memorial to the War on Xandar
Kraglin and Quill Talk Tunes
Mantis and Drax Feel the Sadness Extended
Gag Reel (HD, 4 min).
Miraculously, writer and director James Gunn catches lightning in a bottle for a second time with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, proudly joining the list of superhero sequels that are just as good as their predecessors. Although much of the plot feels recycled and repurposed from the first movie, Gunn and his talented team deliver an excellent follow-up, a lighthearted popcorn flick that lives up to the spirit of the summer blockbuster, as visually mesmerizing and exciting as it is hilarious and full of heart. The Blu-ray crash lands into home theaters with an outstanding 3D video, exclusive to BestBuy or international markets, and a reference-quality audio presentation. Although the supplements are sadly light and somewhat lackluster, the overall SteelBook package, which includes the standard Blu-ray and a 4K Ultra HD copy, is recommended for fans of the movie and who want the best HT bang for their buck.
- Three-Disc SteelBook Combo Pack
- UHD-66 Dual-Layer Disc / 2 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
- Region Free
- 2160p HEVC/H.265
- 1080p/MVC MPEG-4
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English Dolby Atmos (UHD Only)
- English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (UHD Only)
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English SDH, French, Spanish
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Digital HD Copy
- Ultra HD Copy
- Blu-ray Copy
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