Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was easily one of the biggest gambles Marvel Studios has taken. The film featured a group of characters with a very small niche fan base from comics, oh and there’s a talking raccoon. The casting, selection of director, and marketing all came together to make that first film a major theatrical success. Finally, a space opera hit theaters that wasn’t Star Wars. In many ways, this film and its characters are more relatable and modern compared to the sometimes-stodgy Jedi. So, anticipation for the follow up film was high.
So, to cut to the chase, Guardians of the Galaxy is ok, well better than ok, it’s good, but not great like the first film. IN the first film, some of the things that worked so well were the use of music, Drax’s blunt humor, the chemistry between Starlord and Gamora, and Rocket’s villain with a heart. The first obvious mistake that director/writer James Gunn made with this film is that he took the things that worked and built cool scenes for them, and then he wrote a story around those scenes. What we end up with is a film with some great scenes but a story somehow just lacking the heart of the first film. Some of the characters come off very much unlikeable in this film, which is a major goof. Drax’s blunt honesty had a sense of innocence to it in the first film that made it endearing. In the follow up film he just comes off mean. By the end of the film he brings it around but some early scenes just come off mean spirited. Also, his laughter at the wrong time worked in the first film but it’s overdone to an annoying degree in this film. Rocket’s level of villainy in this film also makes him seem like a whiney bitch for a majority of the film. The true success of characterization is to allow the audience to see through the flaws and still love the characters. It’s a good thing these characters have a successful history with fans.
So, in the first film Gunn and his team picked music that was at least to a minor degree was familiar to viewers. The music was perfectly utilized to push the narrative in a base emotional degree. You didn’t have to pay too much attention to the lyrics but the overall feel of the tunes brought the emotions to the forefront. In the bonus features for Vol. 2 the filmmakers pat themselves on the back for resurrecting little known B sides from the late 70’s and 80’s. So, we don’t have that immediate familiarity with the music playing in most scenes of the film. So, the music no longer quickly adds a new layer to the emotional and dramatic beats. Also, Gunn went way to literal with how the lyrics need to define the story. The problem is we don’t know the song and are only mildly paying attention to the lyrics because well, we are watching a movie not streaming Spotify.
I’ve spent the majority of this review on the negatives because this film honestly should have been so much better than it is. With that said, Groot still works in virtually every scene he’s in, the chemistry between Starlord and Gamora still works great, Michael Rooker’s Yondu gives us the most successful dramatic turn in the film, and there is still fun to be had. While Vol. 2 isn’t nearly as good as the first, it is still a fun space romp with humor, action, and gorgeous visuals.
So, the film was shot in a blend of 8K and 4k resolution and finally mastered in 2k. So, in reality the disc that we get is an up convert from 2k to 4k. I just don’t understand why the film wasn’t mastered in 4k since it was shot in at a minimum of 4k. With that said there’s lots of room for dynamic HDR color and deep detail since our source material is so hi-res. The video is beautiful throughout the film. Detail levels are solid from Groot’s woody body to Dave Bautista’s makeup to all of the special fx. If there ever was a demo disc for 4k HDR it’s this film. The sheer variety of color and blending is, well a Marvel. One thing I don’t like in the CGI is the weird glowy glamour shots look of much of the visuals. This isn’t a result of the transfer to home video, this was a choice made in the filmmaking stage. I remember not liking this look in the theater. Still, this movie is just gorgeous.
The audio comes in Dolby Atmos and TrueHD 7.1 flavors and overall it sounds glorious. Dialogue is always clean and clear and well balanced with score and fx. The music fills the soundstage when it kicks in while the sound fx stay appropriately directional. Check out Yondu’s little whistle weapon for some fun directional movement. There’s also excellent subwoofer action during, well action scenes. This is a demo disc for your spiffy new Atmos recover for sure.
The packaging and Bonus Features
So, the packaging is well ok. If you have to give me actor shots on the front of the package at least make them action oriented, and they are that here. The original blu-ray is packed in with the 4K UHD disc. As is common, all of the bonus features are presented on the blu-ray leaving room on the 4K disc for the movie.
There’s a complete set of featurettes covering everything from the writing process to the cast returning, to the music, special fx, and literally every aspect of making the film. The majority of interview time is dedicated to James Gunn throughout the featurettes and that’s not just fine, it’s appreciated. Gunn’s passion for these characters is infectious, in spite of the mistakes he made on this film. The biggest surprise is just how much of the film is practical. Obviously, none of the fx are practical, but many of the sets are and seeing them behind the scenes shows just how beautiful they are. I’d have loved a more in depth tour of some of the sets.
James Gunn handles the audio commentary solo and for the most part he gives us a fun and informative listen. There are a few times that he gets stuck narrating what’s happening on screen but for the majority of the runtime he shares great behind the scenes stories. It might have been a little better had he had a partner in crime for the commentary.
There’s also a gag reel, a hilarious and fitting music video, and Gunn himself describing where this film fits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall this is a very solid set of bonus features.
Guardians of the galaxy Vol. 2 offers up a fun space romp with laughs, love, and lasers. I just wish the story had been given as much love as the characters and music.