Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 in Dolby Vision HDR and Atmos Sound

guardians of the galaxy vol 2

When Guardians of the Galaxy was released in 2014, I wasn’t all that interested. A wise-cracking raccoon and a walking, talking tree? Give me a break! But I am a fan of the Marvel franchise overall, especially for its humor. So when I learned that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 would be shown in Dolby Cinemas with Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) and Atmos immersive sound, I decided to give it a go.

Before I saw GotG2, I watched the original, and I’m very glad I did; the sequel includes many plot points derived from the first installment. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 continues the adventures of an intrepid band of misfits—Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), strong but sensitive Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot the sentient plant (voiced by Vin Diesel), who is essentially the reincarnation of Big Groot from the first movie (also voiced by Diesel).

Other returning characters include Yondu (Michael Rooker), a captain in the outlaw Ravagers who abducted young Peter from Earth in the first movie and raised him as his own son, and Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s estranged sister. New to this story are Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter’s god-like biological father; Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego’s empathic sidekick; Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), another Ravager captain who makes only a couple of brief appearances; and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereigns, a golden-skinned, genetically engineered race that hires the Guardians to defeat a monster at the beginning of the movie and then become the villains after Rocket steals some valuable batteries from them.

Of course, Marvel co-creator Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance (two, actually—be sure to stay to the end of the credits) as he does in every Marvel movie. Another cameo—unexpected, this time—is Howard the Duck in a bar scene!

One critical element is the Awesome Mix cassette tape of pop music and Sony Walkman from the 1980s that Peter had when he was abducted. It also provides a link to the original movie, but saying more would be a spoiler. That music compels some characters to dance—especially Baby Groot—while others just don’t get it.

I really enjoyed both movies. They are even more humorous than most Marvel movies, albeit in an adolescent way, and I laughed out loud many times. In GotG2, I especially liked Drax’s easy laughter, Yondu’s down-home manner, and Mantis’ wide-eyed naiveté. Also, there are some interesting explorations of family dynamics between Peter and Ego as well as between Gamora and Nebula, and some shifting loyalties keep you guessing.

Visually, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is absolutely stunning in Dolby Vision HDR, with riotous colors, super-deep blacks, and superb shadow detail. The home planets of Ego and the Sovereigns are particularly beautiful. In addition, Yondu wields a magic arrow that leaves a bright red trail; in one shot, the lights go out as the arrow is flying around, and the snaking red trail is gorgeous against a black background. The colors were so rich, I wondered if the movie had been graded for BT.2020 color, but it turns out to be DCI-P3.

The movie was shot on Red Weapon Dragon digital-cinema cameras at 8K. According to IMDb, the digital-intermediate (DI) master format was 4K, but Dolby informs me that the DCP (digital-cinema package, the digital file delivered to theaters) is 2K. The image looked razor-sharp to me—except, of course, for the motion blur endemic to 24 frames per second. Also, virtually all CGI (computer-generated imagery)—and there’s a lot of it in this movie—is created and manipulated in 2K, so it makes sense that the final DCP would be 2K as well.

Unfortunately, all that visual beauty was marred in the showing I saw because someone had left the overhead light in the projection booth on! I didn’t notice it until the movie started, when the last of the house lights went out and the screen was totally black, at which point I could easily see light spill on the screen. I decided not to leave and complain to the manager because I had started my audio-level measurement, and I would’ve had to stop it and take my equipment with me. Also, I didn’t want to miss any of the movie, and I didn’t want to disturb others as I made my way to the aisle and then back to my seat. I did let the manager know after the movie was over, so hopefully, that light was turned off for the next showing.

The Atmos soundtrack is spectacular. There’s lots of activity throughout the room, especially the space-battle scenes with ships flying all over the place. And that ’80s music—along with original music by Tyler Bates—is mixed well into the surrounds and overheads as well.

However, the levels were too high: Leq (average RMS level over the entire length of the movie plus trailers) = 99.8 dBZ (flat), 92.3 dBA, 98.8 dBC; Lmax (maximum 1-second RMS level) = 120.3 dBZ; L10 (level exceeded 10% of the time) = 102.3 dBZ; L50 (level exceeded 50% of the time) = 90.8 dBZ. Leq was 7.3 dB over reference level! Another thing to complain to the manager about.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a lot of fun, a perfect popcorn flick. It has a few odd plot points, but overall, it’s a great escape for a couple of hours. Some shots are obviously intended for 3D, and I imagine it looks great in that format. But if you are near a Dolby Cinema (for a list of locations, click here), I highly recommend seeing it there in 2D—though I hope no one leaves the light on in the projection booth! And if you haven’t seen the first installment, be sure to do so before seeing this one, or you’ll be quite confused. If that happens, just remember: “I am Groot!”

Here’s a short video produced by Dolby from the premier of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: