When director James Gunn revealed on his Facebook page recently that Walt Disney Studios had given him the nod to not only release his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, but with high dynamic range, it marked a giant milestone for the new format.

One of the last major holdouts had finally blessed the new 4K optical disc and accompanying HDR technology. Hopefully this is an indication that many more titles will soon be finding their way onto consumer 4K screens. After all, it was Disney that brought us the Wonderful World of Color back when color TV was new, and it was Disney that aggressively championed the Blu-ray format a decade ago.

Read more of our review of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 after the jump:

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray pack of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is called “the Ultimate Cinematic Universe Edition” and includes a Full HD Blu-ray, an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc and a Digital Copy version of the movie. It is due to hit stores August 22nd.

Those who prefer Full HD 3D Blu-ray will also find a DVD and Exclusive Blu-ray 3D Combo pack available separately.

Gunn has delivered a spectacularly bright and colorful work which enhances the regular Blu-ray version not by hitting us over the head with even more vibrant colors and brilliant specular highlights, but by expanding the contrast ratio and color gamut to make exaggeratedly saturated colors with clipped peak whites present in some areas of the Blu-ray version look more realistic and detailed. Even the 4K resolution seems to pop more in faces and fur, as the case may be.

Surfaces and textures take on a more natural sheen and quality that makes objects look three dimensional without the sterescopic affectations. Interestingly, the exaggerated bright elements of pictures in the Blu-ray version (played on a Samsung 65Q8C QLED TV which tends to embellish SDR colors and highlights) appeared more subdued or toned down in parts of the Ultra HD Blu-ray with a wider range of contrast starting from almost pure black and working up. Against this backdrop, bright elements like flames stand out from the rest of the frame.

With all of this to offer, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is very much a recommended go-to disc for anyone trying to take a new 4K Ultra HDTV through its paces. On one disc, we get a thorough demonstration or what HDR in all about, by taking us to the very boundaries of the technology (or your equipment).

Interestingly, the Ultra HD Blu-ray copy of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t list the use of Dolby Vision HDR, although the studio’s press release indicates that digital (streaming or download) versions offer HDR10 or Dolby Vision HDR profiles. Dolby Vision fans can check out the streaming digital version available on Vudu.

With the disc popped into an Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the HDR10 indicator immediately appeared on the screen of a connected Samsung 65Q8C used for this review.

The boost in color depth was evident with hues and brightness elements looking more realistic and dynamic than the Blu-ray copy, despite the far-from-realistic nature of the comic-book-franchise subject matter. The blue skin in Yondu’s face, which appears almost like neon on HD Blu-ray is toned down to reveal more detail, texture and geometry with added shading and layering.

Overall, the image appears darker with a somewhat less warm color temperature than the standard dynamic range (SDR) Blu-ray verison without shifting into a colder blue tonality. At the same time, shadowed areas are not englufed by the surrounding blackness allowing us to see dark textures and elements that the eye would pick up in the natural world.

Impressively, the images appear absent of any detail crushing, allowing us to see dark shadow details and objects and colors within the brightest highlights (sometimes blown out in the excellently produced SDR Blu-ray version) in the same frame.

Colors are similarly excellent. At one point, Gunn tantelizes anyone with a high-quality HDR TV using a literal on-screen deep space fireworks display that seemingly covers every color in the DCI-P3 color gamut.

The enhancements don’t end with picture quality. The 4K Ultra HD version of  includes a Dolby Atmos soundtrack on top of a lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. This delivers 3D object-based audio surround sound with overhead channels that further immerse the viewer in the story.

For those with a supporting home theater system or sound bar, the format brings another element of realism to the otherwise excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack found on the Blu-ray version.

Deep space battle scenes come alive with sound effects and explosions that seem to be coming from all sides of the listener, offering an excellent accompaniment to the dazzling on-screen vizuals.

As with the first version of Guardians, the sequel makes heavy use of the classic 70s rock tracks with Looking Glass’s “Brandy” replacing Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” as the central theme. The music on both the Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray versions was full, rich and engaging, without stepping on the dialog, which was always clear and understandable.

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The plot and story line of Guardians Vol. 2 is typical comic book fare, with a number of snarky quips and “turd” jokes throw in for grins. The plot is perhaps a little more over the top than usual (if that’s possible) with Star-Lord Peter Quill’s discovery that his father is a homocidal god. But, it makes for good comic excapism with a few good laughs for amusement while you marvel (pun intended) at the beautiful pictures your television is producing.

Those into extras will find a few amusing featurettes on the Blu-ray Disc in the 2-disc 4K Ultra HD pack including the following:

The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardian Inferno Music Video

Four Deleted Scenes

Audio commentary by James Gunn

Gag Reel

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is a fantastic example of what 4K Ultra HD with HDR10 and Dolby Atmos surround sound can deliver to the home theater experience. We recommend it highly for anyone with a new 4K Ultra HDTV and Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

We therefore award Guaradians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 4 out of five hearts.



By Greg Tarr


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