Hooked on a Feeling

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is more important than you think, director reveals

James Gunn’s upcoming Disney+ special will bring one Marvel era to a close.

During the Marvel Studios panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin Feige announced that Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is closer to its conclusion than fans thought. Specifically, the Marvel boss announced that Phase 4 will come to a close when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters this November.

However, it looks like Wakanda Forever technically won’t be the last Phase 4 entry. Instead, that honor is going to a Disney+ special that may end up being far more important than fans have assumed.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are returning for another adventure this year.Marvel Studios

Phase 4’s Epilogue — In a recent tweet, writer-director James Gunn revealed that The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which is set to premiere on Disney+ this December, is “the epilogue of Phase 4.” In a separate tweet, Gunn admitted that he didn’t know next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was part of Marvel’s Phase 5 lineup until Feige announced it was at Comic-Con.

Responding to questions from fans, Gunn reiterated that the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special will be canonical. When one fan noted that it sounds like the Disney+ special is going to be a “must watch” before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn responded, “Absolutely; there's a lot of big information in there.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is coming to Disney+ this December.Marvel Studios

Despite what its lighthearted title suggests, the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is shaping up to be one of Marvel’s more interesting Phase 4 titles.

For starters the special, which will be set between Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, will apparently introduce certain important plot points in the latter film. Gunn’s recent update also reveals that the special is going to serve as the coda of Phase 4.

That puts pressure on the Holiday Special to deliver a story that says a proper goodbye to the MCU’s messiest phase yet. Whether that pressure is justified, or even something the Holiday Special was designed to meet, is a mystery that may not be resolved until it makes its debut on Disney+ this December.

We’ll have to wait to see exactly how strong of an epilogue for Phase 4 the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is. Marvel Studios

The Inverse Analysis — Marvel has had a notoriously difficult time anchoring its Phase 4 shows and movies around a common theme or overarching storyline. The studio will hopefully put that problem behind them when Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania kicks off Phase 5 of the MCU next year. However, it seems likely that Marvel’s remaining Phase 4 titles will continue to be affected by the same narrative disorganization that’s plagued their predecessors.

With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how well the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special actually works as an “epilogue” for Phase 4. Having to address the scattershot themes of the MCU’s latest era, as well as potentially cue up the plots and ideas that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will explore in Phase 5, is a tall order.

That said, if any filmmaker is going to successfully tie together Phase 4’s themes of trauma and closure in a holiday-themed Disney+ special, it’s James Gunn.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special will premiere in December 2022 on Disney+.