Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 4K Blu-ray
By Chris Heinonen on
Summary: Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the film’s storyline continues the team’s quest as the 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 the unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.
Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy was a runaway success, and the sequel is nearly as good as the first. Picking right up where we left off, our heroes are helping to save the galaxy, in exchange for money of course. Star-Lord is still pining for Gamora, Drax is still crazy and serious, and Rocket is still angry at the world and everyone in it. Baby Groot is bigger than before, but still a baby and only able to say “I Am Groot”.
Having no experience with the comics, I can’t say how close to the original stories the movie follows.
I feel like Vol. 2 was better upon the second viewing than on the first as well. The first time you watch it, you are certain to compare it to the first film, which was almost perfectly done. The second isn’t quite as good as the first, there’s more pressure on the makers to do something that’s as good but not directly copy the first one, but it is an outstanding film on its own. The film is highly recommended and is one you can come back to watch again.
Technical Review: When I viewed Guardians in a movie theater, one of my main thoughts was that it would look better at home. Some of the scenes, including the fireworks scene at the end of the film, looked to be crying out for HDR, and what UltraHD Blu-ray could provide. Despite being shot on an 8K RED camera, the digital intermediate for GotG 2 is only a 2K version. This led to one of the more interesting rumors we had heard, in that some of the technical staff at Disney wanted to release the film on UHD BR using 1080p resolution, and then letting the TVs scale it to 4K. This would provide a far higher bitrate for less compression, and the TV would scale it nearly as well, providing a better image. But it is out on disc at UHD resolution using HDR10 (Dolby Vision on the streaming version you can buy).
While it lacks that final bit of detail from the 2K DI, and this is noticeable on close-up details, the overall image is superb. HDR and WCG are used continually through the film to amazing effect, and no matter what display you have this disc will push its limits. While scenes like fireworks and many of the battles set in dark space were incredible on my OLED, there are also glorious sunrises and other bright scenes that would push a display like the Sony Z9D with its higher peak output. The disc metadata specifies peak highlights of 1000 nits, so even on an OLED, you are not doing much tone-mapping or clipping. Shadow details are wonderful, with nothing missing at all, and the rich colors pop throughout the film. There are a couple of shots where a bright HDR effect combines with a character in the shadows, forcing your eyes to adjust to seeing them as they would in real life, that show how much more realistic HDR is than SDR images. Aside from the lack of true 4K resolution, the image is effectively flawless.
Doing comparisons between the Blu-ray and UHD discs reveals the benefits of UHD. The opening of Chapter 15, which has some stained glass windows, shows that the UHD had better color saturation and detail. The windows are a richer shade of blue-green than the Blu-ray disc can manage, while the lines on the windows are far more visible. The opening to Chapter 12, on Ego’s planet, shows far more contrast and differentiation between the sun in the background and the floral life in the foreground. The UHD disc is full or richer colors and more natural, realistic contrast than the standard Blu-ray disc.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is just as good if not better. Every channel is continually utilized to place you directly into the action. Ships fly around you, quiet ambient effects are present, and voices are always easy to understand. The soundtrack is amazingly immersive without being showy. While some soundtracks go to great lengths to make you realize you’re in the center of speakers with certain effects, GotG 2 puts you right in the middle of the action but does it without you noticing. Stop and listen carefully and you’ll hear sounds from every channel going almost all the time, but it isn’t forced in order to distract you. A top-notch, highly dynamic soundtrack.
Technically, GotG 2 is one of the best discs on the market today. Now that Disney is clearly into the UltraHD Blu-ray game, we’re looking forward to seeing more releases from them, as the image and audio quality top what most people (including myself) are able to see theatrically.
Special Features: The Making of “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Audio Commentary, a Music Video, and a featurette.
Fantastic image with great use of HDR and WCG, well done immersive soundtrack, and a movie that is worth watching over and over.
Only a 2K DI so the resolution improvement over the Blu-ray isn't as good as it could be.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is the first Disney release on UHD Blu-ray and it is one of the best looking titles to date. With the phenomenal use of HDR and WCG, and an Atmos soundtrack that is reference class, we hope all their future releases live up to the quality of this disc.