The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Is Pure, Unadulterated Gunn

Dept. of Holiday Hijinks


In their unrivaled adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the Muppets sing of everything that makes Christmas Christmas. “It’s in the singing of a street-corner choir. It’s going home and getting warm by the fire. It’s true, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas. A cup of kindness that we share with another. A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother. In all the places you find love, it feels like Christmas.” The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a pitch perfect homage to that song.

James Gunn’s all singing, all dancing love letter to the brilliant disaster that is The Star Wars Holiday Special, is an absolutely delightful, deeply moving, and utterly beautiful story of love, loyalty, and family. He understands every intricacy of what makes a great Christmas movie and his Holiday Special is peppered with hope, nostalgia, two incredibly catchy musical numbers, and just the right amount of magic.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The plot here is deceptively simple. It’s Christmastime on Knowhere, and in order to cheer up a heartsick Quill – he’s still a little depressed about Gamora (see: Avengers: Endgame) – Drax and Mantis make their way to Earth in order to get him the ultimate present by kidnapping the one and only Kevin Bacon. It’s a painfully lonesome universe and the Guardians are still driven by that deep desire to connect with their tribe, and by extension, their humanity.

What follows, is pure, unadulterated Gunn. It’s all heart and humour, driven by his deranged sensibility, and rooted in that same anarchic and madcap weirdness that made the first two Guardians movies such standouts in the MCU.

Gunn owns these characters completely. He knows them. He understands them. He writes them with the kind of care and compassion that only comes with unconditional love. With every installment, we learn more about the Guardians and their personal stories. We become increasingly attached to this dysfunctional family. So much so that watching this really feels like we’re spending time with old friends.

The focus here is on Drax and Mantis and it really gives Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff a chance to shine. They are both fantastic comedic actors who lean into every moment, make a meal of every one-liner, and seem to find real joy in these roles. They pull off the funny as effortlessly as they do moments of genuine emotion and pathos. They play these weird looking, and occasionally daft, aliens as fully realized, three dimensional beings.

Fathers, and Sons, and Kevin Bacon

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

There is a recurring theme throughout almost all of Gunn’s work about problematic father figures and finding heroes in the unlikeliest of places. We’ve seen it play out in his Guardians movies, in The Suicide Squad, and in Peacemaker.

It is an idea he continues to develop in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Slowly but surely reinforcing this notion that our heroes need not always look or act the way we’ve been conditioned to think they should. It’s the flip side to the otherwise polished veneer of the MCU. The Guardians are complex, and flawed, and broken in a hundred different ways. They are rogues and rascals who are still figuring out how to be a family, let alone superheroes.

This Holiday Special may just be a casual digression before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but that doesn’t make it any less essential. If only because James Gunn excels at giving us these family stories with emotional roundness and a satisfying payoff.

Kevin Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

James Gunn is one of a handful of hitmakers who doesn’t seem to be weighed down by the MCU. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special feels like the kind of thing that was made without any adult supervision and it’s all the better for it. He isn’t burdened here with progressing some infinite, unending story. He isn’t forced to shoehorn narrative threads that may or may not ever be resolved. Instead, these 40-ish minutes are simply, irresistibly, fun. They are a reminder that a comic book movie should, above all else, make you happy.

These “Marvel Studios Special Presentations,” or their equivalent of a comic book one-shot, are among the best things we’ve seen from Phase 4 of the MCU. They’re character driven. They’re smart, and sharp, and focused. They snap, crackle, and pop. And we can’t help but want more of it. Please.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special premieres on Disney Plus and Disney Plus Hotstar on Friday, November 25.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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