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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Cinematic Universe Edition 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) movie poster Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Theatrical Release: May 5, 2017 / Running Time: 136 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: James Gunn / Writers: James Gunn (screenplay); Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning (Marvel comics)

Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (voice of Baby Groot), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Sylvester Stallone (Stakar Ogord), Kurt Russell (Ego), Elizabeth Debicki (Ayesha), Chris Sullivan (Taserface), Sean Gunn (Kraglin, On-Set Rocket), Tommy Flanagan (Tullk), Laura Haddock (Meredith Quill), Aaron Schwartz (Young Ego Facial Reference), Rob Zombie (Unseen Ravager), Seth Green (voice of Howard the Duck), Stan Lee (Watcher Informant), David Hasselhoff (The Form of David Hasselhoff), Ving Rhames (Charlie-27), Michelle Yeoh (Aleta Ogord)

Buy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from Amazon.com:
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Steelbook 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

The films of Marvel Studios are consistently entertaining. They're also produced at a high rate and designed for the widest of audiences, which makes their formulas easy to see and plenty familiar. There are really two types of movies Marvel makes: origin ones and sequels. The former bestow powers upon a male hero while also introducing a mentor, an adversary, and a love interest.

The latter increasingly function as team-up movies supplementing official Avengers ones. Guardians of the Galaxy fell somewhere in between these two classes. Adapting a young comic book line not many knew or loved, the film introduced and assembled a group of unconventional antiheroes and had a blast doing so. Audiences loved the movie, making it 2014's biggest domestic hit through the end of the year.

Though the $170 million production was a significant gamble on paper, Marvel knew Guardians was going to be well-received enough to justify a sequel, which was promised and teased in the end credits. Three years later, writer-director James Gunn and the original cast return to make good on that promise with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, seemingly the most anticipated movie of the 2017 summer season it launched.

Vol. 2 opens in 1980 with a stunning recreation of a 30-year-old Used Cars-era Kurt Russell, smack between his Disney and John Carpenter phases. Russell plays the heretofore unseen father of our protagonist Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), who was born around the time in question. We jump ahead 34 years to find Quill and his otherworldly friends engaged in battle. As you likely remember, they are green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), blue-gray muscleman Drax (Dave Bautista), and fiery raccoon-like Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). There's also the treelike humanoid Groot, who is now, as he was when we last saw him, an adorable baby (albeit one whose 3-word vocabulary is again supplied by Vin Diesel). While the grown-ups are being thrown about and shooting their laser guns, Baby Groot is jamming out to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" courtesy of the second mix tape that Quill's late mother made for him when he was a child.

The Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, and CGI) are back in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", set months after the original film.

Like its predecessor, Vol. 2 leans heavily on nostalgia-inducing tunes. A little less familiar than the first film's selections, the songs are mostly from the '70s and include, most prominently, Looking Glass' "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)", whose lyrics are the foundation of a father-son heart-to-heart. Ego (Russell) reunites with Quill and invites him and his friends to the fantastical planet that is all his. Tension over Ego's absence from his and his tumor-stricken mother's lives lingers, prompting Ego to explain his unusual nature and gifts.

Meanwhile, Rocket's theft of powerful batteries from a place called Sovereign (a gold-skinned race ruled by Elizabeth Debicki) puts heat on the trail of our heroes, which now include Quill's surrogate father, blue-skinned lead Ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker). Also, Gamora's sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) shows up again and leads a rebellion.

In the first film, the characters and the comedy were bigger than the story holding them all together. That again is the case this time around. That may concern some, but who in 2017 is approaching a Marvel Studios movie as strictly storytelling and not spectacle cinema? The personalities are again endearing and entertaining. Drax again gets the biggest laughs with his starkly different cultural background and thought process. Rocket is still a fun wild card. And, though dialed down to more of a straight man, Quill still makes for a suitably charismatic lead, dishing out more of the Earth culture references ("Cheers", Mary Poppins) that make us laugh.

Ego (Kurt Russell), Star-Lord's long-estranged father, welcomes the gang to his planet.

The biggest draw of the original Guardians was the extremely fun universe that stood out from both other Marvel worlds and those of the more serious sci-fi movies evoked visually. We again enjoy that here, with new locales and some new characters. But the returns are diminished because this sequel doesn't do a single thing better than its predecessor did. The jokes aren't as fresh, the writing isn't as sharp, and the personalities aren't as novel. You don't greatly mind any of that because the characters, action, and effects still compare favorably to the majority of big new mainstream movies. It's better than Passengers, it's better than Rogue One,
it's on the order of Jurassic World. It doesn't have the first film's surprise factor and unpredictability. But it still manages to deliver strong jokes and even a bit of emotion. The biggest measure by which the proceedings fall short may be in the expectations department, simply because the first film was so good and you trusted everyone to get this right in the reasonable three years it took to follow up.

Not surprisingly given the original movie's good will, Guardians did not disappoint commercially. Reflecting the changing marketplace, this opened in North American theaters having already grossed over $100 million from foreign markets. With its run mostly completed, Guardians 2 has grossed $389 million domestically and $863 million worldwide. Those numbers, representing a slight improvement over the predecessor on each front, make it third domestically and fourth worldwide among 2017 releases.

With summer winding down, Guardians hit stores last week in a single-disc DVD, a single-disc Blu-ray, and the Cinematic Universe Edition reviewed here, consisting of a 4K Ultra HD, a Blu-ray, and a digital copy. That makes it Disney's first release on the 4K Ultra HD format.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
4K: 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos/TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 (English, Spanish), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English DVS); Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (DVS)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-66 & BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $42.99
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD ($39.99 SRP), 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD Steelbook, DVD ($29.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video
Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

VIDEO and AUDIO

The odds of a Marvel movie boasting any less than first-rate picture and sound in any medium in 2017 are extremely slim. It is no surprise that Guardians sports sharp, vibrant picture and immersive sound, whether you're watching it in 4K or the 1080p of plain old Blu-ray.

Director James Gunn pals around with his frequent collaborator Michael Rooker, in Yontu makeup in the making-of featurette. A Baby Groot is positioned on set to be filmed and replaced by computer animation in post-production.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

All extras are relegated to the Blu-ray disc here. The first thing to discuss is an introduction from director James Gunn (1:40), who enthusiastically describes the sequel as an independent movie of sorts.

The listed extras area begins with a Featurettes section, which holds two items.

The main item here is "Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." It can be viewed as one 37-minute, 39-second documentary,
but it is more accurately four distinct short featurettes. "In the Director's Chair with James Gunn" is a general making-of piece. "Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" obviously looks at the use of music of the film, with Gunn and the cast giving some thought to each and how it is employed. "Living Planets and Talking Trees: The VFX of Vol. 2", of course, details the settings and other post-production wizardry needed to bring this colorful adventure to life. "Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2" celebrates the cast, from the made-up to the voice actors.

The section closes with the music video for the end credits song "Guardians Inferno" (3:35) by The Sneepers featuring David Hasselhoff. It's a very accurate recreation of a late '70s disco jam sesh which features the Guardians cast rocking out in period clothes. Silver and sequins abound, and even Stan Lee shows up. It's a fun inclusion the set wouldn't have felt complete without.

A pair of Stan Lee heads surround David Hasselhoff in the "Guardians Inferno" music video. A deleted scene shows Mantis (Pom Klementieff) with incomplete visual effects.

Next up is a gag reel (3:41), which preserves amusing flubs of the mostly blue screen shoots while bleeping the plentiful profanity.

A section of four deleted scenes (5:04) follows. They offer a variation on the closing Teenage Groot tag, Ego showing off a Star-Lord-centric war memorial, Kraglin telling Star-Lord about the iPod music, and a tender scene of Drax and Mantis.

An audio commentary lets James Gunn fly solo as he did in the writing and directing of the film. He covers lots of ground, with his screen-specific chat reflecting both narrative ideas and technical challenges. He defends the appearance of a Dairy Queen as not product placement and discusses every song that was picked, while making it clear he poured a lot of thought, time, and love into all aspects of this sequel. Full of information and easy to listen to, Gunn renders this an above average track.

The plain blue Blu-ray and full-color 4K discs (the latter being notable as Disney's first full-color disc for a non-Pixar, non-Ghibli title in ages) share a side-snapped black keepcase with a digital copy envelope inside and an embossed rounded slipcover above. Also distinguishing this edition is the inclusion of a groovy folded Guardians of the Galaxy Inferno poster featuring Hasselhoff and cast members in their '70s threads from the video.

The disc open with the Thor: Ragnarok teaser. The Sneak Peeks listing runs short ads for "Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series" and "Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite" before repeating the Ragnarok preview.

The menu loops big actiony clips after opening with Baby Groot getting things connected.

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) gets a lift from his daddy Yondu (Michael Rooker).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pales in comparison to its predecessor and 2017's other standout superhero movies. It is a little disappointing that Marvel couldn't give this sequel as much wit and joy as the original, which it needed to trump the fatigue presently engulfing the genre's long-running boom. But this is still a fun and entertaining ride which coasts on humor and personalities.

While it doesn't demand the must-own status of the first film and various other Marvel movies, Guardians Vol. 2 does not leave much to be desired with its terrific picture and sound and high quality extras. It is a movie worth seeing and a release you most likely won't regret buying if you're embracing 4K Ultra HD.

Buy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from Amazon.com:
4K Ultra HD / Blu-ray Combo / Steelbook 4K Ultra HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed September 3, 2017.



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