Review – The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

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Overview

Directing James Gunn

Writing James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillian, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Kevin Bacon

Genre Superhero/Comedy

Release Date November 25, 2022

The beginning of Marvel Phase 5 has brought back the most beloved team in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

The Guardians of the Galaxy is arguably the best individual franchise the MCU has cooked up since the entire enterprise began back in 2008. That’s impressive because this franchise has delivered some fun entries like Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Spiderman: No Way Home, and more. James Gunn performed a miracle with his unique 2014 team-up and turned completely unknown characters into household names.

Even as the franchise has lost a lot of steam in the past few years, it can still deliver new entries that inject a needed shot of joy and fun back into the mix and remind audiences why they enjoy these characters.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: No violence or serious action. A character is chased and kidnapped, and two characters get into a fight with several police officers and leave them injured
Language/Crude Humor: Some language including p*** and s***
Sexual Content: None
Drug/Alcohol Use: Characters get blackout drunk
Spiritual Content: None
Other Negative Themes: Characters casually kidnap and steal for comedic effect  
Positive Content: Themes of family, love, support, and connection

Review

It has been quite a while since audiences have seen the Guardians of the Galaxy in their own element —although the characters have been busy over the past five years since the franchise’s second installment dropped. They appeared in Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Thor: Love and Thunder in minor capacities, building off the stories set up in the first two films that connected Gamora and Nebula to their father Thanos.

The much-delayed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was originally supposed to release in May 2020 to launch Marvel Phase 4, but was delayed after director James Gunn was briefly fired from Disney. Now he’s the new creative head for the DC Extended Universe at Warner Brothers, and it is likely he won’t be directing further films for the MCU in the immediate future after that film drops. In the meantime, though, we have a charming little TV special Disney pulled together as the first major attempt at a Christmas event in the MCU.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is not terribly consequential in terms of the overall story arc of the MCU. There are two or three small lore reveals, such as some explanation of Mantis’ identity and exploration of just what the Guardians have been doing since the end of the Thanos storyline. That doesn’t really matter, though, because Gunn is solely aiming for 45 minutes of Christmas jokes rooted in the character dynamics that have already been established for these characters.

The film is set in the distant colony of Nowhere, with the Collector having sold the former seedy mining colony to the Guardians as their new personal Homebase/trading post. Mantis and Drax both notice Star-Lord is stressed and depressed, and decide to fly to Earth to kidnap his childhood hero Kevin Bacon so they can host a Christmas Party for him and help him feel better.

A lot of the special is pretty predictable and there isn’t really anything of note in terms of surprises or status quo changes. James Gunn knows these characters inside and out and spends almost all of his time allowing their idiosyncracies to bounce off of one another. Half of the special is shot on location in Los Angeles, so Mantis and Drax have an amazing time doing some Earth sightseeing while they attempt to illegally brainwash and kidnap their Christmas present. This causes a fair amount of collateral damage. It’s all classic MCU fish-out-of-water stuff.

When it’s time for the tone to actually hit its tense or sweet moments, the special hits them hard and delivers. We get a lot of bonding moments between Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, and Kevin Bacon, and get to enjoy a visually beautiful display of Christmas cheer. Gunn is VERY good at impactful and colorful visual images, and the special’s visual height echoes the final scene of GotG Vol. 2’s finale.

There isn’t much to be said about The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special other than this is exactly the kind of special I hoped it would be. Given GotG Vol. 3 is set to close the book on several of these characters in just a few months, I am glad we got this wonderful little reprieve to remember just what makes Disney’s best sci-fi/comedy franchise so touching and emotionally impactful. It is a great Christmas special and a great MCU one-off.

The Bottom Line

 

The Guardians of the Galaxy return for their very own Christmas Special to tell a sweet story with some of the most beloved MCU characters.

 

8

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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