Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not quite reach the levels of freshness and attitude that distinguished its surprising parent film, but this latest installment still manages to pack a more than adequate amount of entertainment value within its confines.
The Production: 3.5/5
When the first Guardians of the Galaxy exploded onto cinema screens three years ago, it was like a breath of fresh air with its hip, devil-may-care attitude present within the confines of a science fiction superhero flick. Now, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrives every bit as grand and colorful as its predecessor but lacking that immediate spark of freshness that made it such an eccentric addition to the Marvel cinematic universe. It’s still wonderfully entertaining with an endearing cast of unique characters dancing to their own singular beat (still the pop songs of the 1970s), but things are more serious this time out with a familial theme which haunts each of the film’s several narratives.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, led by their gold Amazonian leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket (Bradley Cooper) has stolen some of the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to seek out the thieves and destroy them. As the Guardians make their escape, Peter finally comes face-to-face with his father, a deity named Ego (Kurt Russell) who wants desperately to connect at long last with his son. As Peter and his father become reacquainted, the opportunity presents itself for Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to come to terms with her long, hostile relationship with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) while Drax (Dave Bautista) becomes closer to Ego’s assistant, a mystic named Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
Director James Gunn’s screenplay takes the makeup of a family as his central theme, exploring the pluses and minuses of a family chosen by its members versus a family born of blood. For such a free-wheeling adventure tale, that’s pretty heady stuff and a difficult and serious subject that a movie filled with space wars and renegade rebels is going to find nearly impossible to explore in the depth it requires for a satisfactory conclusion. We get some closure certainly in the events that transpire (and wouldn’t you know that the tender father-son reunion that seems to be at its core – Ego and Peter even play catch with an energy ball of their creation – is really just another ruse in a push for universal domination), and the motley crew of Guardians established rather tenuously in the first movie now seems to have a more solid foundation moving on into their third adventure. For those looking instead for simply another light-hearted adventure, there’s still a good bit of that in the offing, too. Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) steals all of his scenes, of course, and there are references to everything from Mary Poppins to Knight Rider to enjoy. There’s an entertaining attack on some Ravager marauders in a dense forest by Rocket that serves up some brisk laughs and some great visual comedy, and there are plenty of outer space dogfights (though they seem less real and more cartoonish than the battles in the Star Wars films) and some fancy flying through an asteroid field to offer up some visual thrills.
Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill has grown physically and emotionally in the space of time since we last saw him (though the timeline of the movie is actually only a few months after the last installment), and the two father figures he answers to in the film, Kurt Russell’s Ego and Michael Rooker’s Yondu, are both played quite wonderfully. Rescued from the emotional funk from the first movie, Dave Bautista’s Drax now laughs uproariously and takes a much more active role in the team, especially fun serving as the muscular punching bag for the ornery Baby Groot. Though Peter Quill is much taken with her, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora isn’t much fun this time around. She’s resistant to any emotional connections, and the storyline with her sister Nebula, acted with equal impudence by Karen Gillan, fits the familial theme of the movie just fine but never pushes emotional buttons in the same way the Quill/Yondu pairing does. Pom Klementieff is an entertaining addition to the cast as the eccentric Mantis. Elizabeth Debicki, Kurt Russell, and Chris Sullivan (as Taserface, mutinous new head of the Ravagers) all play imperiousness well. Steve Gunn plays Yondu’s second-in-command Kraglin with much heart.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully executed in this 2160p transfer using the HEVC codec. Sharpness is superb with tons of detail to be seen in facial features, body art, hair, and costumes. Color is explosive with bright, bold hues predominating (a fireworks display at the climax is really eye-popping). HDR adds some notably crisp highlights in shots with suns and moons having an ethereal glow and bright highlights inside darkened spaces nicely rendered. Black levels are inky deep. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.
The Dolby Atmos sound mix (decoded to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core on my equipment) offers exactly the kind of complex sound design that one expects with these Marvel action films. Dialogue, though mostly focused in the center channel, has some directional impact in certain scenes. The rich array of pop tunes and Tyler Bates’ background score get the full surround treatment, and the atmospheric effects will rattle your home theater walls or windows with their vivid placement and impact.
Special Features: 3.5/5
There are no bonus features on the UHD disc. All of the following bonuses can be found on the enclosed Blu-ray disc:
Audio Commentary: director-writer James Gunn effuses without apology about his fantastic and greatly admired cast and crew, offering up anecdotes of filming occurrences and relationships built doing these Guardians movies.
The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (37:39, HD): a four-part set of featurettes which detail the movie’s story, music choices, visual effects, and cast. Offering opinions on the production are writer-director James Gunn, producers Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, and Nikolas Korda, production designer Scott Chambliss, and actors Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, and Elizabeth Debicki.
Guardians Inferno Music Video (3:35, HD): done in the manner of a 1970s disco music video, David Hasselhoff and some members from the Guardians cast in disguise dance up a storm.
Gag Reel (3:41, HD)
Deleted/Extended Scenes (5:04, HD): the four scenes may be viewed separately or in montage.
Promo Trailer (HD): Thor: Ragnarok.
Mini-poster: folded in the package
Blu-ray/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Included on the Digital Copy are additional extras not on the disc. Here are the descriptions of these extras from the press release.
Three Scene Breakdowns (Digital Exclusives): We’ll reveal the anatomy of a few key scenes from the film. Discover the process in bringing these scenes to life. It starts with a doodle and the rest is film history. Audiences will be given the option to view 5-6 layers of specific scenes in the film. Scenes include “Eclector Escape,” “Gamora and Nebula,” and “Rocket and Ravagers.”
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! (Digital Exclusive) – Get an exclusive sneak peek inside the most anticipated ride at Disneyland, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!. We’ll dig into the concepts and inspiration and talk about what it took to bring the most epic ride at Disneyland to life.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not quite reach the levels of freshness and attitude that distinguished its surprising parent film, but this latest installment still manages to pack a more than adequate amount of entertainment value within its confines. The UHD disc offers reference quality picture and Dolby Atmos sound for the all-around best home theater experience available for the movie.