The Titans rise again in Apple TV+’s Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters. But is the show a roaring success or should it have stayed hidden?
Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters is the small-screen continuation of the Monsterverse. Set shortly after the 2014 movie, the series delves deeper into the mysterious organization of Monarch. Jumping back and forth between the 1950s and 2015, we get to discover the origins of the organisation and the long, deeply held secrets they possess. With a great cast that includes Anna Sawai, and Kiersey Clemons alongside Wyatt Russell and Kurt Russell, who play the past and future versions of the same character, the series has all the tools to make it a success. But the question is, is the show a roaring success, or is it something that should have stayed hidden and buried?
Following the epic battle between Godzilla and the MUTOs that levelled San Francisco and the shocking revelation that monsters are real, two siblings, following in their father’s footsteps, uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch. Clues lead them into the world of monsters and ultimately down the rabbit hole to Army officer Lee Shaw, taking place in the 1950s and half a century later when Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows. The dramatic saga — spanning three generations — reveals buried secrets and the ways that epic, earth-shattering events can reverberate through our lives.
Fans of the Monsterverse, prepare yourselves. The series is absolutely superb. These opening three episodes set the tone nicely for what is to come. For those expecting to see Godzilla and/ or Kong throughout, you’re in for a disappointment. The pair do appear but only in archive footage from their respective movies. But in their place, we get to meet some new Titans that will certainly scare some of the audience. The Titans aren’t the focus of the series though. That falls to a human cast that brings us an unfolding mystery that captivates the audience as they learn the secrets of not only Monarch but of members of their own family.
The opening of the series sets the tone nicely. And of course, the first thing we see is Kong, standing with his back to us. This is sadly a clip from his solo movie but we are then given something we didn’t expect to see. Bill Randa (played once again by John Goodman in a nice little cameo, reprising his role from Kong: Skull Island) running out of Skull Island’s jungle. To see the character once again is wonderful, giving us a link back to what’s gone before. Randa is seemingly trapped by a Titan (Mother Longlegs) on a cliff overhanging the ocean. Before he can meet his demise, another Titan (Mantleclaw) emerges to take on Randa’s pursuer. Randa, fearing for his life, throws a satchel into the ocean. What it contains is just the start of what will unfold.
The cast are all extremely watchable in their respective roles. Anna Sawai as Cate is the lead of the series. Cate is a school teacher who, after finding a weird set of keys in her late father’s things, discovers they are for an apartment in Japan where he was working. Travelling there and entering the apartment, she is in for a shock. Anna Sawai plays a strong female character who has a lot to deal with during proceedings. What she discovers in Japan sets the wheels of a family mystery into gear. In some scenes, she is an unlikely action hero, much to our amazement. But it is a great idea to have her front and center. And she has traumatic flashbacks to her encounter with Godzilla in the San Francisco attack.
Ren Watabe as Kentaro is equally as good. When we meet him, we don’t know what to make of him, or his connection to the mystery that is unfolding. I won’t spoil it for you but it is a surprise, to both his character and the audience in general. An unlikely, unwilling participant in proceedings, Kentaro comes into his own as his own backstory is dragged into the light. Ren Watabe is a fine young actor who portrays Kentaro really well. He is a character we, at first, think of as something like a wet blanket, almost like a whiny teenager. But when he gets going, he is enjoyable to watch throughout.
KIERSEY CLEMONS AND JOE TIPPETT
Kiersey Clemons as May is outstanding. An ex-pat with a secret, May is a computer expert and hacker who is always at least three steps ahead of everyone. Kiersey Clemons instils May with a brilliant sense of fun, sass and attitude. She is also Kentaro’s ex-girlfriend. Of the three, May is probably the most important. Her unique knowledge and can-do attitude are invaluable in what is to come. But what is the secret she is hiding? What has she done to make her hide out in Japan? And why is she always looking over her shoulder?
Joe Tippett as Tim is often hilarious. His bumbling about, his demeanour, and his attitude give us a fair few laughs. But underneath the exterior he projects, Tim also has a harder side, an edge to him that we find surprising. Tim looks as if he couldn’t hurt a fly, or punch his way out of a paper bag. But in the field, he knows he has a job to do and is determined to do it. The fact that he comes across as creepy at times is a great sense of amusement.
Elisa Lasowski as Duvall is a seemingly nasty, unrelenting agent of Monarch. Her devotion to the mission she has been given sees her focused on just one thing: getting the job done by any means necessary. She is unemotional, determined, and ready to shoot first and ask questions and face the consequences later. Elisa Lasowski comes across as completely unlikable from the second we meet her. As an expert officer, she also possesses a very wry sense of humor. The actress is terrific in her role.
But the series, of course, belongs to Wyatt and Kurt Russell. As the younger version of Lee Shaw, an Army officer who, as one of three, helps build Monarch up to the organisation we know so well, Wyatt Russell is incredible. His mannerisms, his facial reactions, and his overall demeanour make us believe that he is a younger version of the character. Of course, he is Kurt Russell’s son and shares the same traits, but he can mimic his father to perfection. At times, we can believe we are watching a young Kurt Russell from his Disney movie days. Wyatt’s performance is really that good. And we are hooked by his character from the second he appears. Lee Shaw has more at stake and going on than investigating the Titans in the 1950s. He has his own personal reasons for doing what he does.
I don’t need to lavish praise on Kurt Russell. From the second he appears (he doesn’t make his debut until the second episode), we are on a journey with the legendary actor once again. And we can’t tear our eyes off him for even a single second. Kurt Russell is one of those rare actors who is brilliant in anything he appears in. As he is here. As the older version of Shaw, he comes across as happy, go-lucky, and completely fun. Of course, it’s all a ruse.
This older version of Shaw is as tough as they come. He has secrets that threaten Monarch completely, which is why when we meet him, he is confined to a lavish but well-guarded ‘retirement’ home for ex-Monarch employees. The secrets he knows, the stuff he has seen and done come in handy in investigating the mysteries that come at us thick and fast. And alongside his son, Kurt Russell is the real big draw here.
THE DIRECTING, AND WRITING
Every episode has us hooked from the second it starts. Every one of them is directed extremely well. The colors of the places and worlds we will visit are extraordinary. The 2015 visuals are everything we would expect, all color, vibrant and breathtaking. But the look of the 1950s is equally as good. These sequences look slightly faded or washed out. And it suits the tone of the series to perfection. The recreation of 1950s culture, the look of the uniforms of the Army personnel, and the general feel transports us back to those classic days.
The writing of the series is equally as good. Normally, I baulk at series that travel back and forth across different time periods. The jumping back and forth annoys me. But here, they complement the series. When one part of the 2015 tale is solved, its origin is explained in the 1950s sequences. Things that happen in the past come to fruition in the future. Every character is written with a huge amount of thought, giving them traits and quirks that fit the narrative into the ground. And the writers deserve a great amount of credit for the way they’ve structured the series.
Of course, a series like this needs some great visual effects. And we get them in spades. From what happens to Cate in 2014, Titan attacks in the past, and a sequence in episode 3 that reminds us of something in Kurt Russell’s movie past, and the debut of a brand new Titan, the effects are top-notch. No expense has seemingly been spared in making the series the best it can be, as well as fitting into the Monsterverse at large. These new Titans are impressively rendered and brought to life, not only scaring us at times but also having us hooked as they make themselves known. And don’t worry, Godzilla himself does make an appearance and is as impressive as always, making us cheer when he arrives.
Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters is a delight. These first three episodes give us but a small taste of what’s to come. While the main man himself isn’t in it a whole lot, he is mentioned along the way. The new Titans we encounter during these opening salvos are more than enough to keep us invested. They are big, scary, full of teeth, and would love to feast on us and the protagonists involved. The protagonists themselves are all marvellous characters, ones that we can get behind. Most will have us rooting for them while others will have us willing to boo them out of the room. The action is impressive, the storytelling is superb and these opening episodes are a whole lot of fun.
Those expecting the series to be another Godzilla movie, only in serialised form, are in for a disappointment. Big G does appear but these are very fleeting appearances. This is more of a human story, a mystery behind Monarch that needs explaining. By concentrating on these past and current events, the series makes its mark without the need to have monsters popping up every few minutes. While some viewers may be disappointed with this, it enriches the series instead of detracting from it. And makes this a must-watch show. Rest assured, Godzilla will be coming soon. But for now, just sit back, follow a great story, and get ready for the Legacy Of Monsters to consume you.
Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters is now streaming on Apple TV+. The remaining episodes will drop on a weekly basis.
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