With the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” hitting theaters soon, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit our favorite group of a-holes by rewatching all of their films and appearances in various crossovers. And our latest piece takes a look at their small but significant roles in “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Guardians of the Galaxy: A Holiday Special.” Both sets up the events that will happen in the trilogy capper.
Starting with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the rocking music misfits only appear briefly. While the crossover means we see the dysfunctional family in a franchise outside their own, they don’t overstay their welcome. Unlike the god of thunder (Chris Hemsworth), who joined them without asking them if it was alright. Considering that he had just abdicated his throne to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor’s retirement meant he could search for his new purpose now that the Avengers defeated Thanos.
The roster remains the same, with Thor being the only new addition, while the 2014 Gamora left for parts unknown. Quill, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), along with Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), are still protecting the galaxy. Meanwhile, Groot is still a teenager with a serious attitude problem. In one scene, we see Rocket scolding Groot for chewing on binoculars.
Thor acts more as the team’s muscle, providing help whenever the opposition overwhelms Quill and the rest of the Guardians. Unfortunately, though, he lacks the kind of restraint he had in previous films, as he swings Strombreaker without hesitation. So much so that he destroys temples and is dubbed the god of destruction. And when Thor is victorious, he can be obnoxious, not seeing the devastation he caused.
Clearly missing the team den mother, the Guardians are a group of unruly misfits who have caused more destruction and trouble since Thor joined the team. However, the Guardians aren’t as enthusiastic about the interloper, who acts more like a child than any one of them. He is just occupying space and has outstayed his welcome. Though Quill tries to take control of the situation, he is out of his league. This shows when Thor accepts two giant screaming goats as gifts and brings them aboard the Benetair without asking anyone. Drax is amused by it. Quill is frustrated that they may have eaten a necessary remote. And Neubla is so irritated that she is willing to shoot them, with Mantis following suit.
The other newest member of the team is Kraglin (Sean Gunn). The film makes a lighthearted joke about his absence by explaining that he’s been hiding on the ship. Not only that but for every planet the Guardians visit, he gets married.
Once Groot can locate the distress signal, they see that the entire galaxy is in trouble when Gorr has murdered their gods and their champions. Thor sees Sif’s SOS and immediately prioritizes her call over the others. However, Quill believes splitting up to cover more ground would be better. The suggestion is also a means to part ways with Thor without having him get overly emotional about the split.
While there is no love lost between the two, Quill sees that Thor is an empty shell drifting through space with no purpose. So while the god of thunder uses his hubris to hide his emotional pain from losing his family and breakups with his only love, Jane Foster, Quill is clever and shrewd enough to use those distress signals as a means for Thor to find himself and free themselves of the unwanted guest.
Star-Lord goes as far as offering encouragement to Thor, telling him that he too has been lost before, but he found meaning and love. He recognizes that having all of that taken away hurts. “But that shitty feeling is better than feeling empty,” Quill says to Thor. “My hope for you is that one day, you will find something to make you feel this shitty.” Yes, Quill has a way with words, but his leadership skills are shining through.
Eventually, when the time does come for them to separate, the team shows little to no emotion sending Thor. Though the god of thunder has grown quite attached to them by dragging out the farewell and asking Quill to take care of “his team,” the other members, particularly Nebula, are eager to unload him. And with Thor gone, the Guardians didn’t have to deal with Thor’s massive hypermasculinity.
“Guardians of the Galaxy: A Holiday Special” acts both as a merry gift to Marvel Studios fans and a means to introduce some elements that he wouldn’t have to address at the start of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” By introducing a telepathic space dog Cosmo (Maria Bakalova), a slightly older Groot, and a new Knowhere into the short, Gunn wouldn’t have to explain the refurbished setting or team dynamic. However, he still would have to address some of the changes, like why Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is still missing and how her absence plants the narrative plot for the final installment of the Guardians trilogy.
With Quill still bummed about not being able to share his favorite holiday with Gamora, Mantis and Drax take it upon themselves to save Christmas for their leader. And they do that by kidnapping “Footloose” actor Kevin Bacon, Quill’s idol and a reference he made when he fell in love with Gamora in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
But the “Guardians of the Galaxy: A Holiday Special” was more than just a means to celebrate Christmas. We also got to see how they have changed up until this point. And one of the biggest twists is that Quill and Mantis are half-siblings. It’s a reveal that plays into the themes of family and that the best gifts are not material. However, Rocket begs to differ when he receives Bucky’s arm as a gift from Nebula.
In a way, “Guardians of the Galaxy: A Holiday Special” is one of those rare MCU films that is both an epilogue to Phase 4 and a prologue to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” The idea that there is a finality to this franchise is scary because we will never see this highly dysfunctional family ever again. But at least we know that Gunn will end it on an emotional high note.