The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special released on Friday, November 25, and it truly delivers as the best early Christmas present that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could ask for. It is a warm hug from James Gunn to his audience and a reminder of why this big film franchise is adored by many to begin with.
WARNING – Spoilers Ahead!
While this Marvel short is more or less predictable and there aren’t any shocking twists (besides learning that Ego is the biological father of both Peter Quill AND Mantis), you get what you expect from typical Guardians content – comedy and heart. It does not try to be something that it is not (e.g. Thor: Love and Thunder) but rather maintains the same style as the first two Guardians movies while also providing evidence of growth among the characters.
For one, we see Groot has physically grown since we have last seen him. Nebula has become a leader and genuinely cares about the well being of her new found family in the Guardians of the Galaxy. We even see her goofy side when she does a little dance during the musical performance by Kevin Bacon and the Old 97’s towards the end of the short. Mantis has also gotten closer with Drax and is not afraid to speak up for herself.
It is obvious that Gunn genuinely cares and is very intentional when it comes to developing these arcs as he told Entertainment Weekly that his main takeaway from filming the Guardians films was focusing on the characters.
“So many franchises rely on characters who they pretend are changing or having arcs, but they don’t, and that’s not true of the Guardians of the Galaxy,” Gunn said. “These characters have all completely and utterly changed who they are and what’s important to them over the course of three movies. So I think that’s really the thing: allowing the characters to change.”
He’s not wrong. There are even MCU characters outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy that have failed to really change and grow for the better.
Even though my top favorite Marvel characters are Avengers, I cannot deny the fact that the Guardians are more of a real found family. The Avengers had a huge fight in an airport over politics and then did not talk to each other in a few years until they had to save the universe together. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark never even really took the time to make up with each other.
The Guardians, on the other hand, will frequently bicker and get on each other’s nerves. However, at the end of the day, they always have each other’s backs and stick together instead of waiting years to semi-fix things.
We see their beautiful family dynamic even more in the holiday special between Mantis and Drax going out of their way to ensure that Peter has a good Christmas and their obnoxious, silly brother/sister like banter that plays out during their quest to find and kidnap “the legendary Kevin Bacon.”
I honestly have zero complaints about this besides the animation used to tell the backstory of young Peter’s Christmas with Yondu. I get that they are probably trying to go for that classic Christmas movie feel, but it just doesn’t look appealing to me.
Other than that, I had so much fun watching this. I am glad that Mantis and Drax get more attention, and their scenes with Kevin Bacon are hilarious. The Old 97’s are amusing and a nice addition. I also love that Gunn goes with the “doing the wrong thing with good intentions” trope and has Kevin Bacon realize that so that he can be the hero that saves Christmas.
Definitely cried during that heartfelt scene shared between Peter and Mantis, and looking forward to them hopefully growing closer in the final Guardians film! The post credit clip of Groot as a Christmas Tree was the perfect conclusion to this joy-filled holiday story.
Before the Guardians holiday short, I honestly haven’t thoroughly enjoyed content from the MCU since Spider-Man: No Way Home. Marvel has honestly been missing the mark with their latest projects (besides Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which I still have yet to watch).
Most of the films and shows in Phase 4 have either tried too hard to be funny, were unnecessarily depressing, lacked in character development, or all of the above. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, thankfully, does the opposite. It provides wholesome content like the Golden Age of the MCU but with a Christmas twist.
I really hope this sets an example for future projects. Why not focus on characters and their relationships with one another again rather than merely execute an arc for shock value? Why not have happy endings again instead of heartbreaking ones to “be more realistic” (when the Marvel franchise itself is far from realistic)?
Although Gunn mentioned that the third Guardians movie will be “incredibly emotional,” I’m hoping that it will not be as much in a negative aspect. In a world where we need hope now more than ever, it wouldn’t hurt to receive that from the movies we anticipate to watch.
In conclusion, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is the best way to wrap up the MCU’s Phase 4 and certainly a must-see. Let’s hope for a great Phase 5!
Rating: 4/5 stars
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