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‘Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters’ Is An Interesting Human Character Journey From The Monsterverse – Review

The history of Godzilla is fascinating. The original Japanese film explored the repercussions humanity faced after playing god with powers that should not be trifled with. Godzilla represented the physical embodiment of humanity’s hubris, coming back to bite them in the form of overwhelming destruction. This much more reflective and introspective version was quickly replaced with the awe-inducing wonder and pure entertainment factor of seeing a giant creature fight another giant creature.

Hollywood imported Godzilla, and used its evolving technology to create a realistic take on the legendary monster, thought-provoking themes and the human element took a backseat. Now we have Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the answer to this dilemma.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters
(Courtesy of Legendary TV/Apple TV+)

(Courtesy of Legendary TV/Apple TV+)

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters follows Cate Randa (Anna Sawai), a woman who experienced the devastation Godzilla wrought on San Francisco up close and personal and goes on an emotional journey of learning about her family’s connection to the devastating creature. She discovers that her father was heavily involved in the world of monster exploration with a mysterious organization known as Monarch. Joining her in this adventure is Kurt Russell’s Lee Shaw, who serves as one end of the bridge to the past as we dive into the origin of Monarch with his son Wyatt as the other end.

The narrative hops back and forth to progress the plot, unveiling information about Monarch and the scientists who built the foundation of studying these “titans.” Legacy of Monsters tries to take a more authentic perspective on what a world with these monsters would look like. We see this with the day-to-day lives of people who have to perform drills to get to safe locations in case of a monster attack and with an already ruined city experiencing housing issues and excessive military involvement. These small moments echo the more somber moments of the 2014 film while engaging with much more interesting characters. 

The cast of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters holds the show together. From the emotional beats to uncovering the mysteries the characters offer a point of view on these monsters worth caring about. Most notably, the work of Anna Sawai, Ren Watabe, and Kiersey Clemons are remarkable in doing what a lot of previous films could not, making you genuinely invest in the human characters. The show takes a moment to get going with a lot of information being thrown in the first half of the season, but once the show kicks in with the latter episodes, the emotional storytelling pays off majorly with genuinely special performances from this stellar cast.

Obviously, Kurt and Wyatt Russell holds the most attention due to the clever stunt casting; however, the younger members cast get moments to shine with introspective looks into the previous heavier questions from the Godzilla universe. What is humanity’s place in a world of these massive creatures? Can we learn from the mistakes of our past? The irony of finding deep human exploration in a monster show is not lost on me, but perhaps that’s what was always intended with the first film.

(Courtesy of Legendary TV/Apple TV+)

Although the human journey is an improvement from the previous films, the show still falls into the offbeat and wacky moments of the more recent films. This is something that endeared audiences in a theater but sometimes gets old in the drawn-out series. I appreciate a good silly moment like the next Godzilla fan, but there were times when I hoped we would stay a little more consistent throughout the episodes instead of jumping from a subdued character interaction to a quirky comedic beat. Or at the least, the tonal shifts require more attention. However, this follows the formula the films have taken, so it’s not necessarily a surprise.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters takes a massive gamble by focusing on its human characters instead of its iconic monsters, but thanks to the fantastic performances from its cast, it succeeds. The character work becomes as intriguing as the monster sightings. If you want to see insane kaiju battles and Godzilla action, this may not be the show for you. The show takes a much more grounded approach and uses the monster interactions sparingly. The most rewarded audience member for this live-action series will be a fan of the current Monsterverse live-action films, but it’s not necessarily required to watch those previous films.

There might be a better viewing experience if you have seen the movies, but it’s not mandatory viewing. The true value of the show is still found in the characters and deeper questions asked in the latter half of the season. If you are a Godzilla fan, I highly recommend checking it out.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters premieres weekly on Apple TV+, beginning November 17.

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