When you see the words Holiday Special it’s hard not to be instantly reminded of another of Disney’s acquired products. Star Wars’ baffling, bizarre and very off topic Holiday Special is one that many people wish to forget. Released in ’78 and before Disney bought the rights to its properties but seemingly still want no ties with it that its release on Disney+ seems highly unlikely. But director James Gunn reunites with his Guardians (having been away from the project since 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2) to offer a Holiday Special that unlike the aforementioned atrocity, is very much in keeping with the theme and style of the movies that came before it, and creates a bridge between those and the highly anticipated next entry set to release in May of next year.
With Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) still coping with the loss of Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), his cosmic companions Drax and Mantis (Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff) devise a plan to cheer him up during the festive pagan holiday of Christmas. Kidnap lifelong hero of Quill’s, Kevin Bacon (played by… Kevin Bacon) and present him as a Christmas gift in the hope it will bring some needed festive cheer and reminder of his Earthly belonging.
A running joke throughout the Guardians movies that has been brought to the forefront of a short, snappy but unsurprisingly entertaining TV movie. The latest addition to Marvel’s ‘Specials’ series that acts almost as a DLC for Disney+ users to prepare for the third and likely final entry for Gunn’s direction of the Guardians next year.
Gunn calls upon his continuous cast members with the exception of Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. But it really relies upon Bautista’s Drax and Klementieff’s Mantis, the latter of which has been more of a background character up until this point. The pair navigate the weird world in which we call Earth, as they look to hunt down Quill’s hero Kevin Bacon.
It’s a light but appropriately festive affair that takes a sort of unfamiliar Marvel musical approach, with both original tracks and some alt-Christmas classics being played throughout. Both of which wonderfully serve its narrative and sense of charming magic.
This Holiday Special serves as more of a Guardians 2.5 if you will. It’s unlikely to be crucial to the next phase, but it does provide us with an interesting twist that can certainly be integral to the plot and how the events play out in the next instalment.
It’s certainly not as unique as the Halloween special Werewolf by Night, which saw the company dip its toes into an entirely new genre, but what you see is what you get with the Guardians, and this latest little project doesn’t divert from what makes them so likeable.
Consider this an early Christmas present from Marvel. It does enough to bring you to that festive joyous feeling and succeeds in a breezy but very approachable 44 minutes. A perfect length for the story it chooses to tell and the characters it introduces. It’s great to see Gunn back in the drivers seat for the Guardians after some time away, and there is hope that the final entry to the trilogy will deliver much the same as its predecessors.