The Guardians of the Galaxy are back for another adventure. Except this time, they don’t save the galaxy from the threat of a renegade Kree wielding an Infinity Stone, or a divine Celestial, or a genocidal purple alien with some in bold plans to combat overpopulation. No, this time the Guardians are here to save Christmas. And the only way to do that is to kidnap Kevin Bacon.
This is the wonderfully absurd premise behind it The Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special, which premiered Friday on Disney+. With the glaring exception of Gamora, the entire Guardians gang returns for the occasion, along with the addition of Cosmo the Spacedog (voiced by Maria Bakalova) and a version of Groot who is now alarmingly bloated. Written and directed by James Gunn, the 42-minute TV special marks the first time the MCU’s most motley crew appear together under the direction of Gunn since 2017. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Since then, Gunn was fired and rehired by Marvel Studios; while in exile from Marvel, he began work at DC Films, and last month was named co-chairman and co-CEO of DC Studios, making him responsible for leading of the DCEU in a new era.) It’s also the last time the Guardians will appear on screen before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3which will serve as the conclusion of Gunn’s Guards trilogy when it is released in May 2023.
Simultaneously with the holiday special was filmed Full. 3and while it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds for the Guardians after that, the special provided an extra chance for Gunn and the rest of the Guards team to have some fun before concluding the arc of the trilogy. “Full. 3 is actually a pretty emotional movie, it’s heavy in a lot of ways,” Gunn tells me The Ringers. “We still have all the fun of the Guards, but with a serious story. And just making a movie is a bit more effort – you have to get all the shots just right. While [the holiday special], for us was great. It was almost like our days off. Every few days we would shoot Full. 3, and every few days we filmed this. It was a lot of fun shooting and making in general. It’s just so goofy and if not serious, it made the stakes much lower when we did it.
While the TV special’s revelation that Mantis and Peter Quill are related comes as somewhat of a shock, it doesn’t contain any earth-shattering developments that will change the entire course of the story. Full. 3 or the MCU in general. Instead, it offers a light-hearted, low-stakes side-quest with some potentially pivotal character and relationship developments, while also helping to defend Marvel’s new streaming format.
The Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special is only the second installment in Marvel Studios’ Special Presentations series, following the release of Werewolf at night in October. In early 2021, Marvel made the transition to producing TV at the start of Phase 4 WandaVision, and these special presentations represent the studio’s latest effort to diversify its programming as content is released faster than ever. As standalone stories that run between 40 and 53 minutes, they’re just-staged versions of Marvel One-Shots, a series of shorts released from 2011 to 2014 as bonus features to MCU movies that allow filmmakers to fill in both gaps. into the story and experiment with characters and concepts. The special presentations now provide an even bigger canvas for new characters and ideas being introduced to the MCU, as well as the chance to focus on otherwise secondary characters while not necessarily worrying about the same storyline and financial stakes that come with it. go with big-budget theatrical releases or series of six to nine episodes.
In the Guardians holiday special, this all translates into the chance to see Drax and Mantis return to Earth to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, party, and most importantly, terrifyingly kidnap Kevin Bacon. “Drax the Destroyer and Mantis are really background characters for a lot of movies now,” says Gunn. “The fact that I could give them the opportunity to take center stage, in all their anarchist glory, was one of the things that made me excited to tell this story. And we didn’t have the pressure to make a hundreds of million dollar movie starring Drax and Mantis. We were able to do it on TV, where it’s shot.
Before Drax and Mantis stole Kevin Bacon’s Christmas, Werewolf at night teased the potential of the Special Presentations format when it landed on Disney+ for Halloween. Directed by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino, Werewolf at night is an entertaining homage to the monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, suitably stylized in black and white with an admirable dedication to the charming cheesiness of that movie era. Without the direct reference to the Avengers in the spoken introduction, it wouldn’t have been easy to say that the TV special belonged in the MCU. It features and focuses entirely on new characters from lesser-known Marvel properties, such as Gael García Bernal’s Jack Russell, who hails from the 1970s comic book series of the same name. And while some of the characters and monsters appearing in the special could become important to the future of the MCU (especially as the debut of an all-new Blade approaches), Werewolf at night works well as a standalone project, largely because it feels like such a stylistic departure from Marvel standards.
unlike Werewolf at nightAlthough the Guardians holiday special doesn’t exist in what feels like its own corner of the MCU. Rather, it’s an extension of a story that’s been over a decade in the making, with the Guardians previously appearing in a few standalone films along with Infinite War and Endgameplus a collective cameo in this year Thor: Love and Thunder. This context provided Gunn and Co. a unique opportunity to create a self-contained story, while also laying some narrative foundations for the next film to build on.
“There are many things that we cater to with Trojans Guards Vol. 3 through the Christmas special,” explains Gunn. “[Peter and Mantis’s] relationship, but also the fact that they bought Knowhere from the Collector – this is where they live, this is their headquarters. The fact that they have a telekinetic dog, which is a big part of Knowhere’s landscape; the way Nebula has taken on a much more leadership role in the group; how Kraglin is a very important part of the team. We get to see all of these things in the Christmas special that are then taken for granted by the time we get there Full. 3and I don’t have to spend a lot of time at the beginning of the movie explaining them.
Marvel Studios has yet to officially announce plans to develop more special presentations, and it’s not clear if additional projects will be limited to movie-adjacent releases and holiday themes. But the Guardians holiday special and Werewolf at night have both showcased the framework’s potential in different ways, and it could prove to be a promising narrative space where filmmakers can enjoy additional creative freedom, and secondary characters get the chance to shine without the need for an entire Disney+ series. is dedicated to them. Phase 5 of the MCU is expected to kick off on February 17th Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but you never know; maybe we’ll get the surprise gift of another special presentation Wong: A love story by Valentine’s Day.