After the superb Werewolf by Night, The Guardians of the Galaxy is the second Marvel Studios Special Presentation; essentially a one-off TV special of the kind that doesn’t exist in the same way it used to.

One of those TV specials is the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special; a 1978 dumpster fire that has become legendary for its sheer awfulness. And implied Wookiee masturbation.

Thankfully, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is far better than the Star Wars special it’s named in tribute to.

When Kraglin discovers that it’s Christmas on Earth, he tells Drax and Mantis a story from when Peter Quill was a kid, trying to replicate Christmas in deep space on the Reaver ship. It doesn’t end well – so Mantis and Drax come up with a plan to make this Christmas Peter’s best one ever. They decide to head to Earth in order to bring Peter the world’s greatest hero: Kevin Bacon.

There’s an awful lot to like in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special; it’s a fast paced, funny and genuinely heartwarming story with some pretty anarchic elements. Not to mention a strong vein of classic (and new) Christmas music to tie it all together.

That potent combination is very James Gunn, of course – it’s a very good reminder that this series, despite the upcoming third film reportedly being Ginn’s MCU swansong, is always in good hands.

Though the other Guardians do appear, it’s a real showcase for Drax and Mantis; their odd couple friendship is explored nicely. The real star of the show is Pom Klementieff’s Mantis though; there’s a very Star Wars-esque twist to her character which gives her some incredibly heartwarming moments.

Kevin Bacon also does well as, well, himself too.

Young post-teenage Groot is a delight as well – and Rocket gets some more time in the spotlight, alongside Russian dog Cosmo (who finally gets a bit more screen time!).

Cleverly, there are animated segments that recall the debut of Boba Fett in the Star Wars special too; no doubt there are plenty more Easter Eggs and references to the Star Wars Holiday Special, but my lack of familiarity with it – beyond having witnessed a few jaw-droppingly awful sequences online – means that I’m not quite as tuned in to those as I would normally be.

It’s hardly a life changing experience or an absolute masterpiece, but The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is sure to become a Christmas staple for geeks and MCU fans for years to come. It’s a short, sweet blast of sci fi and comic book goodness that does what it sets out to do with aplomb.

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