Most people don’t watch Godzilla-related films for the drama and performances, which is essentially the assumption that “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” makes of its audience. Expanded into a multigenerational series on Apple TV+, the show is as much a monster mash as it is a Titan-ic soap opera, offering some mild entertainment value but not quite enough of the big guy’s signature city-leveling shenanigans.
The allure of an interconnected MonsterVerse, jaw-dropping special effects, and impressive monster encounters have drawn moviegoers to numerous Godzilla films from Warner Bros. and Legendary. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, a new series on Apple TV Plus set in the MonsterVerse and directed/co-executive produced by Matt Shakman and executive producers Chris Black and Matt Fraction, features all of those elements heavily.
Regretfully, the first part of the newest “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” season fails to avoid this possible hazard. Instead, it jumps straight in, offering too little to keep viewers interested outside of the action-packed moments that arise from the all too seldom appearance of inconceivable monsters.
There would have been cause for alarm if the Godzilla promos for Monarch: Legacy of Monsters hadn’t included some shots of the King of the Monsters destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in 2014. Godzilla has yet to appear in this, eh, Godzilla series after two episodes.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters delves deeply and across generations into the lives of common people, whose stories simply wouldn’t fit into the parameters of a typical kaiju disaster movie, in contrast to Godzilla: King of the Monsters as well as Godzilla vs. Kong, which focused entirely on their titular Titans.
The most fascinating part of “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” which aims to create a mythology spanning decades, is the portrayal of Lee Shaw, who is portrayed by Kurt Russell in the current day and by Wyatt Russell, his son, in the 1950s. The fact that the arithmetic doesn’t quite add up—the older Shaw would be well into his 90s—makes the striking likeness even more mysterious and adds to the slowly unraveling mystery.
They appear to have worked together to support one another’s decisions. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters has a couple of enjoyable performances in its pitifully underdeveloped ensemble, but this is the Russells’ show. Godzilla never let a legend like Kurt Russell take a show from him.
For Monarch: Legacy of Monsters to function as a MonsterVerse expansion and an investigation into the universal themes of Godzilla, the three argued, they needed to strike a long-term equilibrium between spectacle and character-driven drama.
The narrative from Monarch: Legacy of Monsters falls flat in this section, primarily because the characters are so pathetic. The 10-episode series does pick up steam when the older Russell reappears after a long absence, a lamentable Indiana Jones for the modern era. However, in all honesty, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” would be better off with fewer humans and more monsters; this is undoubtedly a result of financial constraints, as even opulent television shows can’t match the quality of the most recent made-for-Imax Godzilla/Kong films.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ Timelines
In “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” two timelines collide. The current content is connected to the events of “Godzilla,” which came to an end in 2014 when a strike team and a large lizard destroyed most of San Francisco. After that, Cate (Anna Sawai), a survivor of the attack, went to Japan to find out more about her father, who had vanished, only to find out he had a completely different family there.
Since all we’ve truly seen is how Hiroshi’s parents met Lee Shaw, that legacy feels a bit like a nebulous MacGuffin. This impression is exacerbated by the fact that the alternate timeline essentially shows us how Hiroshi’s offspring met Shaw as well.