The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Review

In 2014, James Gunn took a D-list superhero team and made a movie so good they became household names. Now, the Guardians of the Galaxy have returned with their very own holiday special, simply titled The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, and the rest of the gang are back to offer up some Christmas fun, but perhaps there’s more to it than what’s on the gift-wrapped surface. 

The Good

Like the previous Guardians films, the humor is topnotch. The wacky characters finding themselves in bonkers scenarios is just as wildly entertaining as ever. Situations like Drax and Mantis bar-hopping in Los Angeles lead to some especially big laughs. The clever dialogue and over-the-top performances create genuinely funny moments that’ll make any Marvel fan chuckle. This is probably one of the most humorous installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The heart is just as big as the humor this time around. Some of the best Christmas movies and specials stand out because of the warmth and emotion that they evoke. Gunn managed to create an MCU project that captures that same warm fuzzy feeling that the Rankin/Bass classics are known for. The emotion between the now-iconic characters is almost tangible. It never quite reaches tear-jerking moments, but it does reach an emotional-enough height to put a smile on anyone’s face.

While the whole Guardians gang is entertaining in this special, it’s Mantis and Drax who truly shine. This is their adventure first and foremost, and they’re an absolute blast to spend the forty-minute run time with. It’s nice to see Mantis finally get a larger amount of screen time and an actual character arc. Bringing these two to the forefront is genius since their chemistry is outstanding and there’s still so much to explore with them. Fans of Mantis and Drax have plenty to look forward to with this one.

This may be a holiday special, but it’s also an important installment in the MCU. It gives some major updates on where the Guardians currently are in their lives after the battle against Thanos. There have been changes made to them and to Knowhere, some of which will truly shock audiences. If you’ve been following the interconnected Marvel movies, this one cannot be missed. It’s also just nice to get some updates on characters that we care about.

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are still the shining examples of the best digital and traditional effects in the MCU, and the Holiday Special only further proves that. The CGI and motion capture characters like Groot and Rocket look just as lifelike as ever, and the characters in makeup and prosthetics like Drax and Nebula look even more so. The alien characters leaping twenty feet in the air and flipping police cars over all looks believable. The brilliant effects can easily immerse any viewer into this science fiction world.

The Bad

With any good holiday special, folks will want to be able to watch it every year in December. Movies like Elf and The Muppets Christmas Carol are viewed in massive numbers each holiday season so people can get into the holiday mood. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, however, only really works as an annual re-watch if you’re well-versed in the rather expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not a standalone Christmas story like you may initially assume. The story was written in a way that assumes those watching it have seen over twenty movies and TV series and will be sticking around for more to come. This might make it an odd holiday re-watch without also binge-watching the whole MCU.

As great as this special is, there’s a bit of a missed opportunity with it. In many Christmas episodes of old superhero TV series, the hero takes on the villain with plastic candy cane decorations and somehow convinces them to honor peace on Earth during Christmas day, or the villain weaponizes Christmas trees and ornaments. It’s quite an unfortunate surprise that something as bonkers as that didn’t happen here. Some throwaway villain could have easily been included in a Christmas-themed brawl. This doesn’t hurt the quality of what we got by any means, but it would have been a ton of fun to see, especially with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Conclusion

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a Christmasy treat for Marvel fans. It’s funny, provides the same fuzzy feeling as some holiday classics, and furthers the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those who aren’t fans of the MCU won’t get much enjoyment out of it, but that should be expected. Those who are, though, have a delightful gift from Marvel to enjoy around the holiday season.

Rating: 9.5/10

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