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+.