Based on the Marvel Comics series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a TV special in which the Guardians of the Galaxy take a break from saving the galaxy where Christmas is emerging where the gang decide to celebrate in the hopes of cheering up Peter Quill/Star-Lord. Written and directed for television by James Gunn, the special is a stop-gap of sorts in anticipation for the third film of the series as it is a tribute to Christmas specials but also a bunch of alien discover the concept and meaning of Christmas in all sorts of hilarity. Starring Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, with the voices of Maria Bakalova, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel, and special guest appearance from Kevin Bacon as himself. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a gut-busting, wild, and absolutely joyful TV special from James Gunn.
The special revolves around the Guardians of the Galaxy taking a breaking as they settled on the planet of Knowhere where it is Christmas time on Earth where the Guardians decide to celebrate Christmas to cheer up Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) with Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) going to Earth to get Quill the ultimate Christmas present. That is pretty much the premise as it play into a bunch of aliens learning about Christmas based on a story Kraglin Obfonteri (Sean Gunn) tells to the other Guardians about Quill as a teenage boy celebrating Christmas and angering Yondu Udonta (voice of Michael Rooker) who despises Christmas. James Gunn’s teleplay’s main narrative involve Drax and Mantis traveling to Earth to find Kevin Bacon in the hopes he could cheer them up while Mantis also has a secret of her own as it relates to Quill where she hopes this present would help cheer up Quill who still misses Gamora who remains missing following the final battle against Thanos. Yet, things eventually go insane and such while Drax and Mantis learn about Earth culture along the way and get drunk.
Gunn’s direction is stylish as it opens with an animated sequence about the young Quill and Kraglin celebrating Christmas and how it raised the ire of Yondu as it plays into Quill’s melancholia over the holiday as well as missing Gamora. Shot mainly at the Trilith Studios in Duluth, GA with additional locations in Los Angeles, California for the scenes on Earth. Gunn keeps a lot of the compositions straightforward as he makes Knowhere this place that has been rebuilt and a haven for all alien beings as well as a home for the Guardians where there’s a scene of Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) talking with Cosmo the Dog (Fred with the voice of Maria Bakalova) putting something up in a medium-wide shot as the opening credits sequence have aliens playing a song where it is a comical moment on their view on Christmas and Quill’s reaction to it. There are some unique wide shots such as Drax and Mantis chasing Kevin Bacon in their attempt to take him to Knowhere while there are also some funny close-ups that Gunn creates to play into reactions. Even the moment where Mantis and Drax learn who Kevin Bacon really is as their reaction is just hilarious. Still, Gunn maintains that sense of heart while the animated sequences has an element of 70s/80s-inspired hand-drawn animation as it play into this sense of homage to Christmas specials of the past. Overall, Gunn crafts an exhilarating and heartfelt film about aliens trying to cheer up their half-human friend by giving him the ultimate Christmas present.
Cinematographer Henry Braham does brilliant work with the cinematography from the sunny look of the daytime exteriors in Los Angeles along with stylish holiday lighting for some of the scenes at night including scenes at Kevin Bacon’s home. Editors Greg D’Auria and Gregg Featherman do excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish moments including a montage in which Mantis has Drax take pictures at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre along with some rhythmic cuts to play into the humor. Production designer Beth Mickle, with set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg and supervising art director David Scott, does amazing work with the exteriors of decorations outside Kevin Bacon’s home as well as the decorations for the main area of Knowhere. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky does fantastic work with some of the Christmas-inspired clothes including the ugly sweaters.
The makeup work of Alexei Dmitriew and Sabrina Wilson do nice work with the look of the characters including a few ravagers and aliens that live in Knowhere. Visual effects supervisor Stephane Ceretti does terrific work with the visual effects in the design of the Guardians’ spaceship’s cloaking device as well as other visual bits to play into the world of outer space. Sound designer Nia Hansen, along with sound editors Coya Elliott and Steve Slanec, does superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects for some of the things at Knowhere as well as other sparse moments for scenes in Los Angeles. The TV special’s music by John Murphy is wonderful with its low-key score filled with holiday orchestral elements while music supervisors Dave Jordan and Trygge Toven create a fun mix of music that largely features holiday-based songs from Hanoi Rocks, the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, Smashing Pumpkins, Little Jackie, Low, the Waitresses, the Wombats, Fountains of Wayne, and a couple of original songs performed by the Old ‘97s including one with Kevin Bacon.
The casting by Sarah Halley Finn is incredible as it features an un-credited voice appearance from Bacon’s real-life wife/actress Kyra Sedgwick, Mark Hamill as a drunk ravager, Flula Borg as a bartender in Los Angeles, Luke Klein as the voice of the young Quill, the Old ‘97s as the alien band on Knowhere, and Michael Rooker in a superb voice performance as Yondu Udonta for the animated sequences. The duo of the dog named Fred and the voice of Maria Bakalova as Cosmo the Dog is fantastic for the humor it brings but also the powers that Cosmo has to set up her future role for the Guardians. Sean Gunn is terrific as Kraglin Obfonteri who tells the Guardians the story of Quill and Yondu’s Christmas as he also does what he can to organize Christmas in Knowhere. Karen Gillan is excellent as Nebula as the most cynical of the group as she is reluctant to celebrate Christmas while she would end up bringing a big surprise for Rocket. Vin Diesel is brilliant in his voice performance as Groot as the tree-like alien who has bulked up as he also has created something special for the Guardians. Bradley Cooper is amazing in his voice role as Rocket Raccoon who also tries to do something special for Quill while getting something really special from Nebula in the end.
Chris Pratt is incredible as Peter Quill/Star-Lord as the half-human/half-Celestial space warrior as he copes with missing Gamora and dealing with Christmas as he also deals with the chaos that is around him as it allows him to play the foil. Kevin Bacon is great as himself as the famed actor who finds himself being abducted by aliens unaware of their intentions as he brings a lot of humor to his performance but also a lot of joy in what he does for Quill and the Guardians. Dave Bautista is phenomenal as Drax the Destroyer as the hulking alien who says a lot of dumb things but is also strong as he brings a lot of humor also revealing his loathing for Go-Bots. Finally, there’s Pom Klementieff in a sensational performance as Mantis as the empath-alien who wants to do something special for Quill as Klementieff doesn’t just bring a lot of heart and joy but also allows the character to have depth while also proving she can kick ass and be a team player.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a spectacular TV special from James Gunn. Featuring a great cast, wondrous visuals, a hilarious appearance from Kevin Bacon, and a killer music soundtrack. It is a special that isn’t just something that brings out the Christmas spirit in all of the right ways but it is also a special full of heart and laughter with its offbeat approach that is all in good fun. In the end, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a tremendous TV special from James Gunn.
James Gunn Films: (Slither) – (Super (2010 film)) - (Movie 43-Beezel) – The Suicide Squad (2021 film)
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The 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
Multiverse Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - 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 - Werewolf by Night - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Phase Five: Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – The Marvels – (Deadpool 3) - (Captain America: Brave New World)
Phase 6: – (Thunderbolts) – (Blade (2024 film)) - (Fantastic Four (2024 film)) – (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) – (Avengers: Secret Wars)
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