tek's rating: ¾

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, on Disney+
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Caution: spoilers

This special was released on Disney+ on November 25, 2022 (but I didn't see it until December 21). It's the final entry in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We last saw the Guardians of the Galaxy, briefly, in Thor: Love and Thunder, so I guess this takes place sometime after that (and before "Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3"). A couple of days before the special was released, there were two episodes of Marvel Studios Legends, "Mantis" and "Drax", which were apparently removed from Disney+ before I had a chance to see them, because of a spoiler from a "Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2" deleted scene. However, "Mantis" was restored to the service sometime before I watched the special, so I did see the spoiler, the nature of which I won't reveal here. "Drax" was restored sometime after I watched the special (it didn't have the spoiler, or at least the version I eventually saw didn't). Anyway... the spoiler in question gets revealed pretty early in the Holiday Special, and helps set up the main reason for the actions Mantis and Drax take in the special, though it's not necessary for you to know what it is. It also sets up the big emotional payoff at the end of the special.

So... the special begins with an animated flashback to when Peter Quill was a kid traveling with Ravagers, including Yondu and Kraglin. Peter and and Kraglin had set up a little Christmas tree and were preparing to exchange presents, but when Yondu found out about it he ordered them to put a stop to it, because he hated the idea of Christmas gifts. In the present (which is live-action), Kraglin is telling this story to Mantis and Drax, and says that on Earth, Christmas is coming up soon. So Mantis decides to make the holiday special for Peter, and to that end she decides to go to Earth with Drax and kidnap "legendary hero" Kevin Bacon, of whom Peter was a big fan before Yondu abducted him as a child. It takes awhile to find him, and Mantis and Drax have various comedic hijinks both before and after finding Bacon. I found some of it funny and some of it not so much. In the end, Mantis uses her empathic powers to make Bacon want to go with them. But she and Drax are both disgusted when they learn he's actually an actor, and assume Peter's memories concerning him must be mixed up. (I debated with myself whether or not to mention that in my review, because I feel like it's a bit of a spoiler, but just of the gag that is their reaction to the realization, which isn't a major plot point. I kind of wanted to see Peter eventually find out they were hiding the fact that Bacon was an actor from him, and tell them he knew all along. I think there's some potential comedy to be mined from his Terran perception of actors being different from aliens' perceptions of the profession, but that never happened.)

Let's see, what else can I tell you? The Guardians have recently purchased Knowhere from the Collector, to make it their base of operations, I guess. They and the other people who live there are working on fixing the place up. Oh, and a talking dog named Cosmo is now a member of the Guardians. Apparently she was in the first two "Guardians" movies, but I don't remember her. I think she should have a bigger part in volume 3, though. So... the Guardians now include Peter, Drax, Mantis, Rocket, Groot, Nebula, Cosmo, and apparently Kraglin. (I don't remember if it's been explained why he's not a Ravager anymore. I have a terrible memory.) Of course Peter is still mourning the death of Gamora, but I know some version of her will be back in Volume 3. Anyway, Peter enjoys the surprise Christmas celebration Mantis and Drax planned, but is understandably horrified that they kidnapped Kevin Bacon. He makes Mantis release Bacon from the trance that had made him happily go along with the abduction, and Bacon is then understandably terrified, despite Peter's attempt to reassure him he'll be taken home immediately. But Kraglin explains some things that make Bacon reconsider, and he decides to stay awhile and help celebrate Christmas, which includes his singing a song with an alien band (played by the Old 97's) we had seen perform a different song earlier in the special. (Both songs are decent, but I prefer the earlier one, which is really funny.) The Guardians also exchange presents, including one from Nebula to Rocket which I don't want to spoil. (I had known about it before I saw the special, though, and I desperately hope to see it mentioned again in some future MCU movie or show.) And Mantis reveals a secret to Peter, which as I said before I'm not spoiling, but it does give the special a lot of feels. And there's another animated flashback scene the nature of which I don't want to spoil.

And, yeah, I guess that's all I can think to say about the plot. Overall I thought the special was pretty fun. I didn't like it quite as much as I had hoped I would, but I had some pretty high expectations for it, and it didn't let me down much at all. It was mostly pretty funny and parts of it were touching, there's lots of good music, and I really liked Drax's ugly Christmas sweater. I want one.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe
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Phase One: Iron Man * The Incredible Hulk * Iron Man 2 * Thor * Captain America * The Avengers
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 * Thor: The Dark World * Captain America: The Winter Soldier * Guardians of the Galaxy * Avengers: Age of Ultron * Ant-Man
Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War * Doctor Strange * Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 * Spider-Man: Homecoming * Thor: Ragnarok *
Black Panther * Avengers: Infinity War * Ant-Man and the Wasp * Captain Marvel * Avengers: Endgame * Spider-Man: Far from Home
Phase Four: Black Widow * Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings * Eternals * Spider-Man: No Way Home *
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness * Thor: Love and Thunder * Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Phase Five: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania * Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 * The Marvels
short films: Marvel One-Shots
TV: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. * Agent Carter * Inhumans * Cloak & Dagger
Netflix: Daredevil * Jessica Jones * Luke Cage * Iron Fist * The Defenders * The Punisher
Hulu: Runaways * Helstrom
Disney+ (P4): WandaVision * The Falcon and the Winter Soldier * Loki * What If...? * Hawkeye * Moon Knight * Ms. Marvel * I Am Groot *
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law * Werewolf by Night * Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Disney+ (P5): Secret Invasion * Loki s2 * Echo