Review by Adam Donato
The MCU has certainly faced a good deal of adversity in a post-Endgame world. Disney+ launched and utilized the Marvel franchise to curate a never ending content train based on brand recognition to keep audiences subscribed. While shows like Moon Knight have been met with approval, movies like Thor: Love and Thunder have been met with mixed responses. Two filmmakers have stood out over the last decade in the MCU: Ryan Coogler and James Gunn. While Coogler is releasing his hotly anticipated Black Panther sequel, Gunn is warming up for his third installment. In the meantime, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is sure to keep Marvel stans in good spirits.
There’s been a lot of exposure for The Guardians of the Galaxy in 2022 as they appeared in Thor: Love and Thunder and I Am Groot. Why so much in such little time? Gunn made it public that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be his last hoorah and with the announcement that he will be running the DCEU going forward, the hope of him continuing with the MCU are down the drain. It’s not the greatest loss as fans were blessed with a whole trilogy on top of several appearances in other movies and shows. He’s gotten his fair shake in the MCU, so let’s have some fun on our way out. A holiday special is perfectly on brand for the Guardians, a family of heroes who thrive under a comedic tone and jammin' tunes.
This holiday special is absolutely perfect. One thing the Disney+ content machine has done well is their short-form content. Not elongated television shows or unnecessary franchise sequels, but taking side characters and giving them a spotlight on a small-scale, low-risk environment like shorts or specials. While it’s clear the CGI characters are limited in their screen time for cost, the special takes advantage of the opportunity to flesh out characters who haven’t gotten much spotlight in the past. While the plot is centered around Star Lord, it’s Mantis and Drax’s story. They’re compartmentalizing, but maintaining the zany humor and the toe-tappin' bops that make the movies stand out.
Mantis truly is the MVP of the special. She was a featured addition to the second volume and had a small role in Infinity War, but here she gets to play the lead. Clutch timing too as audiences are sure to go into the third volume with more connection with Mantis. Especially with the team going through so many changes as Kraglin joins the squad and Gamora is MIA. Kraglin continues to be part of the emotional heart of the franchise due to his connection with Quill and Yondu and that relationship is flexed here as well. Drax is as funny as ever as well.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is full of fun and heart as any Guardians project is. It’s just a bite size piece running at just over forty minutes, but it’s important to appreciate greatness, while it still lasts. May could be the last time we’re graced with Gunn’s creative input on the MCU, so a holiday special is more than worth it. Gather the family and prepare to experience what is sure to be a holiday season regular for all fans of the MCU. It’s crazy what happens when studios give talented creators freedom to make what they want to make.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special streams on Disney+ beginning November 25.