The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special review: A Christmas caper

Now, to be fair, at least it’s one pleasure addition to the MCU. The special is less than an hour long and is basically a feel-good Christmas story with some sci-fi shenanigans thrown in. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, doing his best Super Mario impression) is understandably saddened by the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), so his friends Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) decide to cheer him up with a little Christmas cheer . The problem is that they have little idea of ​​what Christmas on Earth actually entails, so they think it would be a good present to kidnap Quill’s hero, Kevin Bacon, so the two can hang out.

What follows is best described as a Christmas caper in which Drax and Mantis work their way through the kidnapping, getting drunk at various points, breaking in, taking selfies with tourists and pining for inflatable Christmas decorations. At one point, someone mistakes Drax for Kratos. Bautista and Klementieff have a charming otherworldly chemistry, both of whom are clueless about human ways, but for the most part try their best. Bacon also seems like he’s having a blast playing an extremely confused version of himself. It all ends with the kind of heartwarming but silly finale you’d expect, and of course there’s a lot of good music.

But there’s more than that. While Werewolf at night was refreshing largely because it stood on its own, the Guards holiday special goes in a different direction. It is full of references to not just the previous two GotG movies, but also other parts of the MCU. Some are throwaway jokes, while others – like the history with Gamora – are integral to understanding what exactly is going on. There’s even a reveal near the end that seems to be a big deal for the future Guards stories.

So instead of being a fun little Christmas adventure, the special feels like a holiday-themed prologue Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (which hits theaters in May). Perhaps that is to be expected; it’s the Marvel way, after all. But the studio has proven very recently that these shorter, more experimental projects can be great if they don’t have to worry about all of the MCU’s many storylines. (The same applies to Star Wars.) But the GotG special cannot resist the temptation of the canon and therefore becomes a little less special.

The Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special will begin streaming on Disney Plus on November 25.

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