"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" was a little treat for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in late 2022. While waiting for Phase 5 to kick off in earnest with "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," James Gunn delivered a sweet, simple, and charming Christmas special that was widely praised, even if it wasn't what fans of the MCU were accustomed to. It was a relatively small-scale story without a ton of action. But Gunn did originally consider a more action-heavy version of the special before deciding against it.
Speaking with FilmCon ahead of the special's release, Gunn addressed how he cooked up the story. Ultimately, he landed on a story involving Mantis and Drax trying to kidnap Kevin Bacon as a gift for Star-Lord to help their pal get into the spirit of Christmas. It's a combination of silly and sweet, though more action was on the table before the director changed his mind. Here's what Gunn had to say about it:
"Originally, it was going to be two stories, about Mantis wanting to give a good gift to her brother, Peter, and also this sort of action-oriented thing. I realized I didn't care about the action-oriented thing. I only cared about the family part of it – the part of the Guardians as family, as found family. And the fact that she wanted to give Kevin Bacon as a gift to Peter. She's an alien! She doesn't understand what's right or what's wrong, in certain ways. I found that to be what's really fun."
The Spirit Of A Holiday Special
When we're talking about a large-scale blockbuster like 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy," audiences expect a certain amount of action for their money. Gunn, as a writer and director, is very good at injecting a lot of character amidst the spectacle, which is a key reason his blockbusters work so well. But that's also why he was able to craft something so charming such as "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," which was so divorced from the typical blockbuster-level action we get in the MCU.
By the time the special rolled around, audiences were already heavily invested in these characters. We had the emotional weight of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," as well as movies like "Avengers: Infinity War," "Avengers: Endgame," and "Thor: Love and Thunder." Those movies offered up plenty of action. As a result, Gunn was able to lean into something that the films would probably never allow him to explore. We get to really spend time with Mantis. We get to further understand Drax. We get to dive into the relationship between Peter and Mantis as long-lost siblings.
What Gunn settled on is more in the spirit of what a holiday special probably should be. It's relatively low stakes as far as the MCU is concerned, but it very much suits what this project was and what it was trying to accomplish. Gunn consistently makes good character choices, and this may be the perfect example of him making exactly the right choices for the story he's telling.
"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is streaming now on Disney+.
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