Similar to Werewolf by Night, it feels a little like The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special has flown under the radar somewhat. Yes, we’ve had a trailer and poster, but beyond that, the second Marvel Studios Special Presentation has been surrounded by relatively little fanfare ahead of its release on Disney+ this Friday, November 25. However, while it hasn’t been hyped up quite as much as the year’s MCU movies and TV shows, this is one Christmastime adventure you won’t want to miss. The Holiday Special sits up there with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as the best Marvel Studios content of 2022, and is arguably among the greatest anything produced by them since the MCU began in 2008. A joyous delight, James Gunn’s return to this world delivers big laughs, plenty of emotion, and a one-of-a-kind adventure for the Guardians that serves as a truly unforgettable holiday treat.
Mantis and Drax are at the heart of this story as we join them on a trip to Earth as they set out to kidnap Kevin Bacon and present him to Peter Quill as a Christmas gift. Despite not being a direct set-up for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, this standalone tale does far more to cement the place of these characters in the MCU, all while advancing their respective arcs, than Thor: Love and Thunder ever did, reminding us why these characters are at their best when in Gunn’s hands. The duo's offbeat, hilarious visit to Terra sees them run afoul of the law, get better acquainted with Hollywood, and learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Gunn avoids ever getting too cheesy or schlocky with his approach to the story, but infuses the Special with a huge amount of fun and a whole heap of Christmas spirit. In just 40 minutes, he delivers an instant Christmas classic we’ll be revisiting for years to come (we'll also be listening to the incredible song by The Old 97's that kicks the story off on repeat every December from now on).
The filmmaker also infuses the action playing out on screen with another killer soundtrack, including a tune we’d argue is the best UK Christmas song of all time. We don’t want to start listing those tracks because to do so would risk heading into spoiler territory, but along with some familiar and lesser-known songs, expect a couple of original music numbers that are all but guaranteed to become hits in their own rights. Whether it’s reintroducing Cosmo (a sure-to-be fan-favourite), revisiting Star-Lord’s childhood in a unique animated opening, or delivering the sort of laughs and heart that ensures the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise ranks among Marvel Studios’ best, Gunn just gets these characters. We’ll miss him when he makes the leap to the DCU, but my goodness, they sure are lucky to have him.
Dave Bautista is on top form as Drax in this Holiday Special, and even though he has occasionally expressed disappointment with the character’s comedic role in stories, there’s really no one better than him at playing this alien and making his jokes land in side-splitting style. However, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special belongs entirely to Pom Klementieff. As much as we loved seeing the new-look Groot and getting to catch up with Nebula and Rocket, Mantis is firmly established as the MCU’s MVP here. Given the chance to shine, Klementieff puts this character on the map with a soulful, mischievous, and uproarious take on the alien that culminates with one of the franchise’s most beautiful moments. What Klementieff does is no Christmas miracle; Gunn simply gives the actress a long-overdue chance to showcase her immense talents, and that allows Pom to steal the show in wonderful style.
With Gunn heading to DC Studios after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is released, yearly Holiday Specials from the filmmaker are likely off the table (well, unless they revolve around Superman, Peacemaker, and company), making this one feel all the more...well, special. A magnificent feat in filmmaking, this gorgeously shot holiday treat is the gift that keeps on giving and is just what the world needs right now.
A seasonal showpiece for the amazing Pom Klementieff as Mantis, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is James Gunn’s Marvel masterstroke, and the best Holiday Special ever made. A merry Marvel Christmas miracle, it doesn’t get any better than this.