Over the years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has spanned a variety of genres. Over the last year alone, fans have seen him Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness leaning into horror and Thor: Love and Thunder dipped its toe into rom-com territory. But few MCU projects are holiday-centric, making it Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special very unique. It features all of the signature ingredients one would expect from a Christmas movie, and it also stays true to the heart of the franchise. Thus, the Marvel Studios Special Presentation provided a win-win by hitting home runs on both fronts.
RELATED: Marvel Cinematic Universe Phases Ranked Following MCU Phase 4
For starters, the special feels like the first time the Guardians have truly been themselves since Avengers: Endgameif not Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Team members appear in Thor: Love and Thunder, but they clearly play second fiddle to the God of Thunder. With James Gunn once again at the helm, the squad is back where it belonged, as they were served by the same people who built them into beloved MCU staples. The team dynamics and each member’s personality are real, from Rocket’s temperament as a loose cannon to Drax’s classic sense of humor. Groot continued to grow up, and although he said nothing more than “I’m Groot”, he stole the show with his facial expressions and timely reactions despite his limited role in the program.
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special it also serves as a moment of escape for Mantis, which is featured prominently throughout the story. Viewers get to see more of his personality, which has seemed somewhat limited throughout his run in the MCU to date. She also broke the headline that she is Peter Quill’s half-sister, which is sure to bring the two closer. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. They share an emotional moment at the end of the special when Mantis nervously tells Peter, even though he is clearly pleased; he replied saying it was the best Christmas present he could ask for. This relationship will likely be a key factor in the series’ third film, and the developments seen in the special serve as a nice appetizer ahead of the film’s release in May 2023.
Fans can whet their appetite for the next movie by watching the special, but this Marvel Studios Special Presentation really has the staying power as a Christmas movie. The musical numbers, most notably Old 97’s “I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here),” help ground the story in the holiday season and the plot itself is based on Mantis’ mission to save Christmas for Peter. When he finds out that Yondu ruined the holiday for him, Mantis goes to great lengths to give him a Christmas he will never forget by kidnapping his favorite actor, Kevin Bacon.
Of course, crimes happen; one highlight includes Drax and Mantis stealing Christmas decorations from Bacon and proceeding to load the spaceship with more decorations from the store. Bacon is not pleased when Mantis stops using her empathic powers to make him comply, but he changes his mind when he hears about Peter’s sad history with Christmas. Bacon then sings “Here It Is Christmastime” with Old 97’s to show Peter what the holiday is all about, and the Guardians exchange gifts in a sweet and hilarious scene towards the end of the special. As it turns out, Mantis didn’t get the full story—because Yondu didn’t actually ruin Christmas for Quill—but she’s still touched that he went out of his way to make her happy. Overall, Gunn provides a fun exploration of what Christmas is all about.
RELATED: MCU Explained: What Happened in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special?
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special must join the list of Marvel fan movies to watch around Christmas. It doubles as a fun romp in the MCU while also ticking every box on the list for what one wants from a vacation-based program. The story is heartwarming and lots of laughs as Peter and the Guardians celebrate the holiday season while preparing for their climactic adventure next year.