James Gunn explains how Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special bridges the gap to Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy 2
(Image credit: Disney)

Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.

James Gunn says he used The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special as a way to set up things for Vol. 3, without having to actually spend valuable screen time on them in the franchise's upcoming third movie. In a new interview with Deadline, the filmmaker explained how he used the Christmas outing as "a trojan horse" to establish Nebula's new sense of authority, the gang's new ship the Bowie, and more.

"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 said. "I don't have to talk about where they got Knowhere from, or Cosmo being around Knowhere. 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."

Set after the events of Thor: Love and Thunder, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special see Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) try to cheer up Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), as he struggles to move on from the death of his Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). After Kraglin tells the titular team a story about how Yondu ruined Christmas for Peter as a kid, the pair set out to find their depressed pal the perfect present – a mission that takes them all the way to Hollywood. Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, and Kevin Bacon also feature.

In the 45-minute movie, Nebula drops it into conversation that the titular team bought Nowhere from The Collector, and Mantis reveals that she's Quill's sister, due to the fact that Ego is both of their fathers. It also introduces Cosmo (voiced by Maria Bakalova), a dog that was sent into space as part of a Soviet space program, and wound up being kept in the Collector's museum.

“[Vol. 3] has a lot of heaviness in it," Gunn continued. "So shooting that for a few days, and then shooting this goofy thing – these were like my recess days. 

"When you see Guardians 3you'll see, yes, there's a bad guy, but it's not about that. 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."

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is available to stream on Disney Plus now. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be released on May 5, 2023. For more MCU goodness, check out all the upcoming Marvel movies and shows to look out for.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.