The MonsterVerse has had quite an upbringing with 2021’s wildly spectacular Godzilla vs. Kong. Though Legendary Pictures had a hard time finding its footing with Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, it turns out that many fans wanted to see the two behemoths go at it. Now, with round two of “the clash of the Titans” coming soon, things within the MonsterVerse are about to get much crazier. Fortunately, fans can get excited for what’s ahead in Chris Black and Matt Fraction’s compelling and intense family-focused spin-off: Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.
Despite its namesake, Monarch is more than just an all-out kaiju brawl fest or a survival account of woe. The story follows Cate Randa (Anna Sawai), whose travel to Japan to accept her father’s disappearance gets turned around after discovering a secret familial affair. Incidentally meeting her half-brother, Kentaro (Ren Watabe), the two siblings slowly find themselves in the center of an ever-deepening conspiracy involving Titans, their father, and the clandestine monster-hunting organization, Monarch.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Review
As someone who wasn’t really invested in the human storylines in the MonsterVerse, Monarch makes a confident step forward in giving depth and grounded individuality to its characters. Cate’s emotional reeling combined with Kentaro’s conflicting hesitancy subtly establishes this layered groundwork, supplemented by Sawai and Watabe’s blossoming brother-sister chemistry, that sprouts new possibilities.
Cate and Kentaro build this sincere relationship, driven by traumatic moments in their pasts, in a way that delivers the right amount of emotion and gravitas, if a bit slightly undercut to keep these characters on the beating path. Aiding them in their quest is Kentaro’s tech-wiz friend May (Kiersey Clemmons), who may start off as the defensive, know-it-all genius, but there are added layers of complexity and sympathy that will definitely help viewers connect with her.
Furthermore, Monarch‘s cast gets split along the timeline as the show intriguingly spans between the 1950s and the modern day. The show’s most influential character, Lee Shaw (Kurt Russell / Wyatt Russell), offers to bridge the generational divide with both actors providing a certain assertive and energetic charisma to their respective renditions.
The events involving Wyatt Russell’s version of a young Lee, alongside the ever-curious scientist Keiko (Mari Yamamoto) and the courageous anomaly explorer Bill Randa (Anders Holm), intricately mesh themselves with the events in the show’s present. Russell, Yamamoto, and Holm have this great connection with their characters and each other, playing off of their strengths in a way that keeps viewers hooked in this history-filled parallel storyline. Every character is specifically utilized in ways that give them much more to build off of, giving each actor multiple chances to shine.
The writing behind Monarch vigorously balances between developing relationships and divulging the conspiracy and cryptic forces that threaten Cate, Kentaro, and May. The first two episodes maintain a solid flow, providing some intriguing looks into Cate’s past with her father as well as Kentaro’s lack thereof, while Lee, Keiko, and Bill take on these harrowing expeditions while getting to know each other. In later episodes, however, some of the 1950s events are cut back to focus on the present-day trio, in part due to the show’s deeper dive into uncovering this mystery from their perspective.
Of course, it wouldn’t be possible for Monarch to go without having some exciting action sequences, which are perfectly utilized. From a visual standpoint, the practical and VFX effects create this beautiful integration on par with other MonsterVerse films. Most of the action sequences in this show have that suspenseful build-up by playing on the isolated-ness of these characters, climaxing towards these grandiose kaiju reveals, which are very terrifying. In a way, it almost replicates the method seen in Netflix’s Skull Island, albeit on a much bigger scale with emotional and historical importance.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is an excitedly dramatic story with family and relationships at its core. Its expansive, yet character-centric storytelling provides an engrossing narrative that’s able to fit right into the titanic reality of the MonsterVerse. Though most of the films within this franchise had a hard time creating and developing their human characters, this show invigorates a new energy with remarkable performances from its cast.
Overall, Apple TV+‘s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters successfully delivers on creating a riveting and heartfelt story that other MonsterVerse films could only slightly touch, surpassing expectations by just being human.
Rating – 4 out of 5 Stars
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters will stream on Apple TV+ on November 17 with episodes releasing weekly.
This review was written during the 2023 WGA (now resolved) and SAG-AFTRA (ongoing) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series/movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.