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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 8/22/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/14/2017

Fans of low-budget horror films are very accustomed to the quickie-sequel. This phenomena was especially prevalent in the 1980s, when a popular slasher movie would see a subsequent entry within a year. We often saw this when a movie was a surprise hit and the producers felt that they had to rush a follow-up into the theaters as soon as possible while it was still fresh in the mind of the audience. In comparison, a three-year gap between a dark-horse box-office smash and its next chapter may seem like a huge difference, but when you factor in the time needed to finish a mound of visual effects, that time difference suddenly shrinks. So, this raises the question -- was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a rush job?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens a short time after the events of the first film. The former disparate outlaws, Star-Lord AKA Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), have now become a cohesive team which is known for their heroic deeds. They have been hired by a race known as The Sovereign to protect some of their greatest assets...which Rocket promptly steals. While being pursued by The Sovereign, the group meets Ego (Kurt Russell), who reveals himself to be Peter's long-lost father. Ego is also a "Celestial", a powerful being who spreads life throughout the universe. As Peter goes off to Ego's planet in order to learn more about his Dad, The Ravagers, lead by Yondu (Michael Rooker), are in pursuit of the group as well. Will The Guardians be able to regroup and save the day again?

When Guardians of the Galaxy was released in 2014, it stood the chance of being successful simply because it had the Marvel name on it, while it was just as easily likely be ignored, as the characters were not familiar to the general public (or even some comic book fans) and Marvel was taking a huge chance introducing a group who weren't linked to the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe of The Avengers and the like. Marvel has become well-known for making interesting choices for the director's chair, and the man which they put the helm of Guardians of the Galaxy, Sean Gunn, certainly fit that mold, as he was better known as a writer than a director, and he'd come out of Troma. But that faith in Gunn paid off and the result was a movie which was equally humorous and exciting and, in the end, just plain fun.

So, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it's clear that in many ways, Marvel took an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, as Gunn is once again at the helm as writer and director. For Gunn, he is faced with the challenge of making sure that the audience is getting what they want from the film, but not necessarily repeating himself. Therefore, we get all of the main characters from the first film, including Gamora's estranged sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), as well as new ones, like Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego's servant. Groot may now be "Baby Groot", but Gunn knows that he's a fan favorite and we get plenty of him, especially in the incredibly creative opening, in which an epic battle is taking place, but we don't get to see it.

However, once that opening scene is done, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 makes several crucial mis-steps. First of all, Gunn commits one of the worst sins that a filmmaker can when making a sequel -- he splits up the team. We came here to see the interactions, so why would you separate them? This really takes the power out of the middle part of the film. Secondly, Gunn leans way too hard on the dysfunctional family angle, and I lost count of how many times the characters break out into laughter after insulting one another. Third, the focus on the relationship between Gamora and Nebula is worth a glance, but the movie places far too much emphasis on this. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there simply isn't enough Star-Lord here. Pratt is seen in many scenes, but in far too many of them, he's being star-struck by his Dad, instead of being the wise-ass which we came to love in the first movie.

In the grand scheme of things, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a good movie, as it offers nice action sequences and some genuinely funny moments, especially the one in which Yondu's connection to Peter is discussed. But, it's not a satisfying movie. Again, the elements of the first movie are all there, but the focus on cruel humor and the lack of heart really hurts the movie. This is a common element in second films, as the drive to keep the audience from being bored weakens the focus on originality.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 points out the lack of tape in space on 4K UHD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. (It should be noted that this is Disney's first 4K release.) The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 42 Mbps. (Which is relatively low for a 4K UHD.) The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent, as we can make out the textures on objects. The depth, even in this 2D version, is exceptional, as the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 8.5 Mbps. (With bursts up to 11 Mbps.) The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences produce impressive sound which brings us very detailed surround sound effects in which individual sounds can be heard. The stereo effects do a great job of showing off sounds coming from off-screen. The combination delivers audio which moves from front-to-back, enveloping us in the action. The subwoofer effects are wall-shaking and we feel every explosion.

The extras for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are found on the included Blu-ray Disc. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director James Gunn. "Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (38 minutes) is a four-part documentary which includes the segments "In the Director's Chair with James Gunn", "Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", "Living Planets and Talking Tree: The Visual Effects of Vol. 2", and "Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2". These pieces offer a generous amount of interviews with the creative team and the actors, on-set footage, concept art, and early visual effects. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes, some of which have unfinished visual effects. There is a 4-minute GAG REEL. Finally, we have the MUSIC VIDEO for "Guardians Inferno" by The Sneepers featuring David Hasselhoff, which has to be seen to believed.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long