Warning: The following article contains MAJOR spoilers from Marvel Studios‘ Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which dropped today on Disney+.
James Gunn’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special has finally arrived; the one-off a concept he originally developed for ABC in the wake of the release of 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
However, timing is everything, and the special arrives at a quintessential moment as Gunn is wrapping up the $1.6 billion global grossing Marvel franchise with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in theaters May 5, 2023.
“I used the holiday special as an opportunity to introduce some elements into Guardians of the Galaxy, so I didn’t have to explain them at the beginning of Volume 3,” Gunn tells Deadline. “It was a trojan horse.
“I don’t have to talk about where they got [the new Guardians HQ] Nowhere from, or Cosmo being around Nowhere,” explains Gunn, who folded the threequel’s new sets into the special — i.e., Nowhere and the new spaceship, The Bowie. “I think you see what Nebula’s role is in the group now: She’s a leader to some degree.
“We see all these changes since we’ve seen them last,” adds the filmmaker.
The mega reveal here in the Holiday special: We learn that Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill and Pom Klementieff’s Mantis are brother and sister, fathered by Kurt Russell’s Ego.
The holiday special was shot simultaneously with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in Atlanta, “which is an insane experience because Vol. 3 is a serious movie, it deals with these characters’ emotional lives,” Gunn says.
“[Vol. 3] has a lot of heaviness in it,” adds the filmmaker. “So shooting that for a few days, and then shooting this goofy thing — these were like my recess days.
“When you see Guardians 3, you’ll see, yes, there’s a bad guy, but it’s not about that,” he continues.
Back at San Diego Comic-Con last summer, where the Vol. 3 trailer was dropped, the new Guardians villain made a cameo in Hall H in full costume, that being the High Evolutionary played by Chukwudi Iwuji who stars on Gunn’s HBO Max DC show Peacemaker.
The High Evolutionary warned Hall H, who he called “scum”: “Thank you for inspiring me, for how vomitous you all are…I can’t wait to dissect all of you and see what I can learn.”
Adds Gunn about Vol. 3, “It’s about this family of rejects who have found each other, and have come to love each other, and together with the support of each other, maybe come to accept who they are because they all hate themselves, and that’s really what this journey is about.”
Gunn conceived the Holiday Special out of his love for the 1980s cult Star Wars Christmas Special, pitching it to Marvel Studios Boss Kevin Feige, who remained a fan of it. Kevin Bacon playing himself provided plenty of mojo to the new special, with the Footloose actor being kidnapped by Mantis and Dave Bautista’s Drax. Bacon was an idol of Quill’s, telling Zoe Salanda’s Gamora back in the original movie that the actor was a hero, who saved a town that couldn’t dance. Gunn also tapped his favorite band, the alt-country 1990s group Old 97’s, to perform the song he co-wrote with their lead singer Rhett Miller, “I Don’t Know What Christmas Time is, but Christmas Time is Here.”
We previously reported on Gunn talking about his departure from Marvel as he heads to Warner Bros.’ DC Studios as the label’s co-head with Peter Safran. The duo are unveiling their map for the DC universe early next year.
In regards to who Marvel will leave the Guardians franchise to, Gunn commented last week, “It’s not ever going to be the same group of characters for a lot of different reasons. Who knows what will happen with the Guardians franchise in regards to future characters, but in terms of this group of characters, this is the end of their story.”