Review by Dan Skip Allen
The MonsterVerse has had a few starts and stops over the years, but the purchase of these characters' rights from Toho about a decade ago by Warner Bros. was the beginning of something bigger and more connective for this massive franchise. Now they've spun it off into its own streaming series on Apple TV + called Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. This show ties together some of the loose ends from the films.
This series deals with multiple time periods. It starts in 1972, when John Goodman's character Bill Randa from Kong: Skull Island is running from a giant spider who ends up fighting a giant crab. Before it cuts away, he throws a waterproof package in the ocean, where it was found by a fishing boat in 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. The story then focuses on a young girl looking for her father. Instead, she finds her illegitimate brother and his girlfriend. There is also a flashback to 1959 Kazakhstan, where a couple — a seismologist and cryptozoologist — are tracking a signal they found in an abandoned radioactive facility. Fast forward back to the future, where, unbeknownst to them, the relatives of these people would all end up meeting each other and finishing the job their parents started: learning what's going on with the monsters and why they are here on Earth.
The series refers to the day Godzilla fought the MUTOs as D-Day. Everything after this day is considered the time of the Monarch. They even have an agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, like the FBI or CIA. They are now the main authority on all things monster-related. Kurt Russell plays Colonel Lee Shaw. He has secrets that he knows about the monsters he's not sharing with Monarch, but he did try to help these young people who approached him about helping them figure out why these monsters exist and why they keep popping up around the world. Maybe their father's notes or Bill Randa's package can lead them to the answers they seek.
Even though the MonsterVerse is mainly about monsters attacking or fighting other monsters, there are occasionally good human characters. This show allows the writers to build on the human characters from the past and their pregnancy from the present. One story I thought was quite fascinating was how one character had two families — one in San Francisco and the other in Tokyo, Japan. Even in a series like this, there are still domestic issues. The writers, Chris Black, Milla Bell-Hart, and others, did a great job of infusing reality into this fictional world.
One of the best things about the MonsterVerse is that it is a globe-trotting series of films, and the same goes for this show. In just five episodes, characters go from the past to the future in Eastern Europe to the Far East and various places in America, including the Western United States, where the first attack happened in this iteration of the MonsterVerse. With the movies, we already know that monsters exist everywhere, but this series continues what the filmmakers and writer started almost a decade ago. It just shows the series and shows are very far-flung, and this affects the entire world. It is a worldwide threat.
This series doesn't have a big cast, but it does have a good one. As mentioned, Kurt Russell and John Goodman are in it, but there are some other recognizable faces to complement the new ones, too. Kiersey Clemons plays a hacker, May, who helps the brother and sister duo of Cate and Kentaro (Mari Yamamoto, Ren Watabe). Also, Wyatt Russell plays the younger version of Kurt Russell's character. I'm sure filmmakers won't miss another opportunity to use these two in a situation like this again in the future. The real find in this series is Yamamoto, though. She brings all her emotions to this character and more. She is a bonafide revelation to me in this show. I am completely transfixed by her and her performance in this series. I can't wait to see her in more films or series in the future.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters shows how the films and shows are connected in so many ways, but also how the attacks are connected as well. This show makes Monarch a key to everything going on from the first film until now. The writers and directors have infused many elements into this show to make it fascinating to those interested in this world Legendary and Warner Bros. have created. The human characters, though annoying at times in the film franchise, are very interesting in this show because they have domestic problems like the rest of us, and we can relate to them, making this different from an average sci-fi show. Add in the monsters, and you have another very good addition to the MonsterVerse.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters streams on Apple TV+ beginning November 17 with two episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Fridays. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.