On Friday, January 12, the 10-episode kaiju-themed show, specifically Godzilla, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” concluded on the Apple TV+ platform. This project is part of the Warner Bros. and Legendary studios’ MonsterVerse cinematic universe—a series of feature films and shows centered around iconic monsters like Godzilla, King Kong, and other titans that, according to the franchise’s mythology, inhabit the planet. Below is a review of whether the mighty Godzilla translated well to the small screen.
“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters”
Genre: Adventure Science Fiction, Monster series
Showrunners: Chris Black, Matt Fraction
Cast: Anna Savai, Wyatt Russell, Kurt Russell, Kiersey Clemons, Ren Watabe, Mari Yamamoto
Premiere: Apple TV+
Release Year: 2023
A year after the catastrophic kaiju incidents in San Francisco, young teacher Kate Randa, who witnessed those horrific events, travels to Tokyo to sort out the affairs of her presumably deceased or missing father, Hiroshi. However, she discovers strangers in his house, later revealed to be the second wife of her father and their son Kentaro. Shocked, the siblings join forces to uncover what happened to their absent-minded father. Their search leads them to the charismatic grandfather Lee Shaw and the mysterious organization “Monarch.”
Simultaneously, the clock’s hands turn back half a century to the 1950s. A strange alliance forms, consisting of Japanese scientist Keiko, American military man Lee Shaw, and cryptzoologist Bill Randa, who simply tags along. This unlikely team traverses the vast Kazakh steppes to discover traces of mysterious creatures. Overall, their research leads to significant government funding and the establishment of a future influential organization tasked with identifying monsters—a potential threat to humanity.
Miraculously, these two narrative lines with different timelines have many points of connection, while giant bats, boars, and lizards occasionally roar in the background.
If someone expected an exciting plot involving powerful kaiju, the authors Chris Black (“Outcast”) and Matt Fraction (“Da Vinci’s Demons”) decided it would be more interesting to focus on the story of dubious characters, indifferent to the fate of all.
Well, if you intended to concentrate on human relationships and unjustly gave monsters a modest place in cameos, then scripting this drama should have been done qualitatively. To make the audience truly engaged with the story and characters, forgetting why they are watching a monster show in the first place. Doing so will be extremely challenging because viewers are offered characters who are generally unsympathetic: someone secretly lives a double life and deceives both families; someone constantly complains and is dissatisfied, and most are simply boring. Ron Perlman’s luxurious shoes in “Pacific Rim” elicited more emotions than the company here.
At the same time, the plot is built on overly “soapy” arcs, such as who will turn out to be a grandmother or grandfather, where the father of the step-siblings is, why he abandoned them, or how Wyatt Russell and Kiersey Clemons manage to be so similar and different at the same time. Following the blatantly absurd and endlessly long dialogues of these characters will be almost constant. It’s more of a screen pastime, to be honest.
In each episode, the creators try to dilute meaningless chatter with some adventures, but it doesn’t save the situation. What was known to the audience through feature films is presented here as a search for truth, and the fragments of new discoveries almost go unnoticed.
Somehow, the goofy moments are more memorable. For example, a subplot about how pencil shavings can save lives, or a situation where adventure seekers should have broken all their bones but settle for a slight scare. Only superheroes or, at most, Dominic Toretto could afford such things. Here, we have a team of people with more modest talents: a delicate lesbian, a determined hacker, a skilled grandfather, and an inconspicuous artist from Tokyo.
Even if you are a MonsterVerse enthusiast, watching this show makes little sense. In such a case, it is not worth doing it, especially if it claims to be a human drama. It’s like “The Walking Dead,” but with less appealing characters and titans instead of zombies.
Looking at uninteresting characters, the futile fuss of which annoyingly tires, at some point, you may wish for Godzilla to appear from around the corner and devour all these Kates and Bills to the devil. The accumulation of conflicting events raises more questions left unanswered, and the very rare and short appearances of monsters seem like mockery.
You know when a project reaches its maximum and looks really cool? In the last 15 minutes. Are they worth the suffering endured in the previous 9 episodes and change? A ridiculous question.
The only moment that manages to evoke a sincere response (if this is positioned as human drama) is when the alarm sounds, signaling the approach of danger and the need to take shelter. Then everyone immediately descends into the subway and waits for the all-clear. Here, once again, you painfully remember that the terrible reality has long ceased to be purely cinematographic.
There is no reason to start watching the series “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.” The series’ mythology is almost not enriched at the expense of this show, so fans of kaiju and the MonsterVerse franchise are better off waiting for the blockbuster “Godzilla vs. Kong: New Empire,” scheduled for release in April.