[Spoiler-Free Review] Let’s be honest: following in the footsteps of two of the greatest Kaiju/Titans ever is no easy task. Notwithstanding, that’s exactly what Showrunner Chris Black and Apple have set out to do with the new Apple TV+ series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. Building on the Godzilla lore of recent years, the show brings the human element of the MonsterVerse into the limelight. It does so with superb casting, quality acting, and visual effects worthy of the movies from which the series was born. In short: Monarch is the new must-see TV for monster fans.
Set in two timelines, the 1950s (pre-Skull Island) and a year into the aftermath of 2014’s Godzilla, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters weaves together two spectacular tales of the agency’s origins and shady history. On the one hand, we see Anders Holm portray a much younger Bill Randa (John Goodman’s Skull Island character). He teams up with Dr. Keiko Mura (Mari Yamamoto) and Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell) as Monarch come into being. There are, of course monsters, including a classic encounter with Godzilla. It is a MonsterVerse show, after all. What makes this aspect of the show so compelling, however, is its side-by-side storytelling with the more current arc of the 2000s.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters hits every target
In more modern times, it’s Randa’a grandchildren Cate (Anna Sawai) and Kentaro (Ren Watabe) that team up with a much older Shaw (who Kurt Russell plays to perfection alongside his son’s younger iteration of the character) to solve the mysteries of Monarch. Secrets are revealed, new monsters are discovered, and yes, the King of the Monsters will appear in the series. It’s not the monsters that make Monarch, however: it’s the people, and that’s what make the show special.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is to the MonsterVerse what Andor is to the greater Star Wars story arc. It is a compelling, human story, born of the trauma created by the universe in which it’s told. Each performance, from the combined Russell portrayal of Lee Shaw, to Sawai’s at times heartbreaking playing of Cate, propels the story so much so you almost forget about the monsters at its heart. Almost… and it’s the interaction of the human and monster elements of the show that really bring it together.
Life in the MonsterVerse
Curious as to what happened between Skull Island and Godzilla, and thereafter? Do you wonder how Monarch rose to such power, what it intends to do with it? And how does the agency affect the lives of those in the path, or wake, of the likes of Godzilla and the other MUTOs? The premiere will suck you in. The story, and watching it through the eyes of the characters telling it, will keep you compelled to keep watching.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters premieres on November 17, 2023 on Apple TV+.