In anticipation of the upcoming season centered around the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, Marvel released its very first holiday special this past weekend. What in its inception and announcement sounded like a corporate money-grab actually turned out to be a decent Christmas special— one that raises spirits in these trying times of final exams.
The plot centers mostly on Drax and Mantis and their quest to give Peter (AKA Star Lord) an eventful Christmas to remember. They decide to surprise him by bringing him a hero he hasn’t been able to stop talking and thinking about for many years. In a humorous twist, it is not Gamora, who we haven’t seen since “Avengers Endgame,” but his beloved childhood hero Kevin Bacon. Peter has looked up to Bacon specifically because of his role in “Footloose,” where he saves a small town by dancing. It is pointed out — rather plainly to a point for laughs — that Peter did the same thing in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film to save the entire galaxy.
A touching detail is that there are a few animated flashback scenes of a younger Peter with Yondu. These fit nicely with the Christmas tone of the special and pay homage to other Christmas specials before it. That being said, there is still a heavy use of CGI in some scenes — now a trademark of Marvel’s.
Of course, there are other details found in this special that pertain to the larger Marvel storyline. There is the introduction of Cosmo, a talking dog astronaut with telekinetic abilities. There is also a detail revealed at the end to set up “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” that I won’t say because I wouldn’t want any fans to start a witch hunt. Jokes and references to other active characters in the Marvel cinematic universe are repeatedly used as well. At the very least, keeping up with the overarching Marvel storyline — which is becoming more and more exhausting to do — does offer some motivation to watch the special.
The special includes an unexpected amount of musical numbers, which are surprisingly catchy without being too annoying. Bacon also does a great job in his funny extended cameo, sharing decent chemistry with the rest of the guardians. The special doesn’t deviate far from the usual “Guardians of the Galaxy” humor you may be familiar with from the movies, so it’s nice to see some new material from originally beloved characters.
Its general reception has been filled with unexpected positivity, with many people enjoying it more than they thought they would. This bodes well for Marvel in anticipation of its future projects. Many have been falling out of the loop due to the poor films and series released in Phase Four. But this — mixed with the success of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” — makes it seem like Marvel is finally coming back to its roots.
Overall, “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” is as solid as Christmas specials go. It sometimes plays into cliches, but uses them nicely without being too heavy-handed. It has more of a “Guardians of the Galaxy” vibe than a Christmas vibe which is nice — and far off from the Hallmark expectation some fans had. I would recommend it if you’re in a show-hole right now or are looking for something new to ring in this year’s Christmas season.