Werewolf By Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special have been one of the most undermarketed MCU projects of all time. A trailer for the Christmas special was released just 30 days before its premiere on Disney+. Other than a featurette and a few stills, Marvel Studios did not use any other promotional material for marketing either of these titles. For comparison, Hawkeye received more than 30 promos, while the special presentations only got 2. Sure, we can argue that a special presentation has a much lesser runtime than a show, but just look at the numbers! The ratio of Hawkeye‘s total runtime to the special is around 1:6, while the ratio of Hawkeye’s promos to the special’s is 1:15!
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special marks the 3rd appearance of the Guardians in just 2022. We saw a brief glimpse of their time with the God of Thunder in Love and Thunder, Rocket and Groot in I am Groot, and this special (which focuses primarily on Mantis and Drax). Their next MCU appearance will be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which sees them facing Adam Warlock.
James Gunn has finally returned to directing a title set in the MCU after almost 5 years, and while we didn’t receive a screener for the holiday special, we were able to catch the special on Disney+, alongside the general audience. Here are my thoughts on the special, right below.
This was the first Marvel Studios project to not feature a villain, and boy was it refreshing. Almost every single Phase 4 project had word-ending stakes, which, in my opinion, was stale. A small-scale project bringing all the Christmas joy, without having the Guardians actually guard the galaxy was just what we needed. James Gunn effectively delivers a one-off special that explores previously overshadowed characters, introduces Kevin Bacon in the MCU, perfectly utilizes Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista, builds up the Volume 3 hype, and much more. And that was just in the 40-minute runtime it had.
Mantis & Drax
Both Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista gave a wonderful and hilarious performance. Mantis is finally out of the shadow of Ego and the star guardians, and her charisma is out of the world. Just watching them interact with the people of terra, and acclimatize to their traditions and culture was something we never knew we needed.
Funnily enough, this isn’t even Kevin Bacon’s first appearance in a Marvel movie. He first appeared way back in X-Men: First Class as Sebastian Shaw. He plays himself incredibly well, and Gunn managed to give Bacon himself a mini-arc! He gets kidnapped by Drax and Mantis as a Christmas present for Peter. Kevin goes from a scaredy-cat to a real hero, exactly how Peter imagined him to be. He realizes how much of an influence he had on Peter’s life. He was responsible for Peter saving countless people, countless times. Kevin performs a musical number with the Old 97’s, which was hilarious as well as lighthearted.
The visual effects of the special was impeccable, and easily the best example of VFX done right in Phase 4. Groot being 100% CGI was something I would’ve never guessed if it wasn’t confirmed by James Gunn on Twitter. Rocket was perfect, as always. This special continues the tradition of flawless CGI in the Guardians movies.
The Guardians Are Self-Aware?
In the post-credits scene of the special, Rocket and Cosmo decorate Groot as a Christmas tree, with his arms outstretched. He drops his arms and the decorations as Rocket says, “Now we gotta have another special,” as they all look at the camera. This was the first instance of previously-established characters in the MCU breaking the fourth wall, and while this wasn’t meant to be taken seriously at all, this made Rocket the second MCU character to be self-aware, right after She-Hulk.
Overall, The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special is a hilarious, lighthearted, wholesome, and silly adventure. It gives greater depth to characters like Drax, Mantis, Kraglin, and Cosmo the Spacedog. It is a great treat for all audiences, with little to no previous MCU knowledge required to watch the special. While, Wakanda Forever dwelled on hope and faith for a brighter future, this is the brighter future. Watching the Guardians bond with each other over Christmas is heartwarming. It gives us the final ounce of enjoyment the Guardians get before Vol. 3, in which we will see this team for the last time. This will remain a perennial Christmas watch for people all around the world; the best Christmas present Marvel could give us.
Special Presentations Are Key
Both Werewolf By Night and the GOTG Holiday Special work as great introductions and help expand the boundaries of the MCU even more. Mantis and Drax were perhaps one of the most underused characters in the MCU. Their potential as a duo on a solo mission was well explored in the special and helped set them up for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The special helped transition Groot’s physical transformation between Love and Thunder and the upcoming threequel. It helped add more depth to side characters which, in due course, will play a crucial role in upcoming movies.
What did you think of the GOTG Holiday Special? Let me know at @DocOckfromCG on Twitter, and follow @CoveredGeekly on Twitter for the latest pop culture news, see you there!
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is now streaming on Disney+.