Kurt Russell & Wyatt Russell’s Godzilla Spin-Off Is A Human Drama But Rivetting Than Any Of Its Big-Screen Releases
Cast: Christopher Heyerdahl, Qyoko Kudo, Mari Yamamoto, Kurt Russell, Anna Sawai, Ren Watabe, Kiersey Clemons, Anders Holm and others
Creator: Chris Black, Matt Fraction
Director: Matt Shakman
Streaming On: Apple TV
Language: English (with subtitles)
Runtime: 2/10 episodes, around 50 minutes each.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: What’s It About:
After the monumental clash between Godzilla and the MUTOs, which left San Francisco in ruins and unveiled the reality of monsters, two siblings embark on a journey to unravel their family’s ties to the enigmatic organization Monarch, following in their father’s footsteps. The discovery of clues propels them into the realm of monsters, leading them on a captivating journey through time. The narrative unfolds in the 1950s with Army officer Lee Shaw and echoes half a century later, where Monarch faces a looming threat tied to Shaw’s knowledge. This sweeping saga, spanning three generations, unveils long-buried secrets and explores how monumental, earth-shattering events can resonate through our lives.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: Script Analysis:
The series unfolds across two distinct timelines. In one thread, the narrative takes place in 2015, following Godzilla’s devastating impact on San Francisco. Simultaneously, the other strand transports viewers back to the 1950s, introducing a trio consisting of army lieutenant Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell) and the two cryptozoologists under his protection, Keiko (Mari Yamamoto) and Bill Randa (Anders Holm). Together, they traverse the Manila jungle, tracing radiation trails in pursuit of a monstrous ground zero.
They are the soon-to-be founders of Monarch. What is Monarch? “It’s like the CIA, but for Godzilla,” as one character later elucidates. Alternatively, it’s akin to SHIELD but within the Monsterverse for a more detached perspective. The 1950s timeline is replete with Indiana Jones-esque adventures, including the discovery of a nursery brimming with squishy, glowing eggs destined to hatch into nightmarish creatures with pincers and oilskin bags tossed into oceans. Amidst these escapades, Shaw’s unreciprocated love for Keiko, who only has eyes for Bill, provided she can divert them from her Geiger counter and monster-sampling kit.
Comparatively, the contemporary timeline set in 2015 is less enjoyable. While attempting to circumvent the typical weakness of monster films by emphasizing the human characters, the series has managed to allocate more time to them without adding the personality or complexity that could compensate for the lack of kaiju action.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: Star Performance:
In the role of Cate, Anna Sawai serves as the emotional anchor of the series, skillfully embodying its overarching themes of collateral damage and heritage. Mari Yamamoto effectively captures Keiko’s daily equilibrium of composure, subdued anger, and unwavering intelligence.
While John Goodman briefly appears in the first episode, much of the show focuses on the younger iteration of his character, portrayed in the 1950s by Anders Holm. Even in his brief appearance, Goodman delivers an impressive performance. Ren Watabe, Kiersey Clemons, Anders Holm, and other cast members perform fantastically.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: Direction & Music:
Despite its connection to the action-packed MonsterVerse film series, the expansive show, unveiling the aftermath of Godzilla (2014), surprisingly shares more similarities with the streamer’s epic drama Pachinko. The director has skillfully maintained the secrecy surrounding Monarch in the first two episodes of the series. The narrative starts with Cate and her newly discovered half-brother Ken embarking on a grand adventure to unearth their father’s clandestine affiliation with Monarch, the covert government agency dedicated to studying these mythical creatures.
Regarding the musical elements, the few instances when Godzilla makes a grand appearance, complete with the chilling sound effect synonymous with its roars, evoke a sense of awe akin to the music of a Koto resonating in any Japan-set scene in a Western movie.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: What Works:
Even though half the series is a conspiracy thriller with occasional monster cameos, the other half is a drama. Cate and Ken have just met, but they’re already involved in something bigger than themselves. They discover that in addition to having two families on either side of the world, their father was also involved in shady activities with the government. The family drama in each timeline is infinitely more engaging than the clandestine government stuff. However, what is more exciting is the handful of times that Godzilla appears in all his glory.
It is also worth pointing out that the 1950s timeline that focuses more on the founders of Monarch is far more interesting, keeping the audience on a hook so far as the two episodes are released. The series becomes even more engaging, including Cate and Ken’s grandmother, Keiko, and the entangled love triangle she navigates with the goofy Bill and the more swashbuckling Lee.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: What Doesn’t Work:
The 10-episode series unfolds across a bifurcated timeline, featuring a trio of young characters in each, brought together by a rare piece of brilliantly successful stunt casting. One timeline is in 2015, a year following Godzilla‘s destructive impact on San Francisco, which still bears the scars of ruins and temporary housing. In this narrative, the world grapples with the reality of giant lizards. While the series effectively captures human suffering, the split timeline occasionally becomes overwhelming and loses coherence in storytelling.
The makers could have taken a linear approach with two series dedicated to two timelines. This could have made the storytelling much less complicated. Moreover, the series showcased monsters much less but with great reverence, whether flashing back to G-Day or moving further to recount his first encounters with humanity.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review: Last Words:
Unexpectedly captivating and skillfully crafted, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters presents a compelling argument for character-driven storytelling within Legendary’s MonsterVerse, surpassing the impact of its cinematic counterparts. The series’ ambitious and mystery-laden structure and the ingenious double casting of Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell, who charismatically embody the same enigmatic character across decades, elevate its narrative prowess.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters season 1, episode 1 & 2 was released on Apple TV on November 17, 2023. Rest of 8 episodes will be released every Friday. So stay tuned to Koimoi for episode wise reviews.
For more recommendations, read Loki Season 2 Review here.
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