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Monarch: Legacy of Monsters review: More than just Godzilla

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters review: More than just Godzilla

Note: This article was first published on 17 November 2023.

It's G-day in San Francisco. (Image Source: Apple TV+)

The best look yet at the MonsterVerse

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is the Godzilla show we've all been waiting for. For the first time, we have a MonsterVerse title that isn't just raw spectacle. But that's not to say that Legacy of Monsters lacks the creature-driven action MonsterVerse fans love— there is still plenty of CGI action, rendered in gorgeous detail, and a bunch of new monsters to boot.

Set in the devastating aftermath of G-day, the name for the battle between Godzilla and the Titans that levelled San Francisco, Legacy of Monsters tracks two siblingsfollowing in their father’s footsteps to uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch.

One half of the sibling duo is Cate Randa (Anna Sawai), a Japanese-American middle school teacher who was caught in the thick of G-day and survived. One year on, Cate is in Tokyo to settle the affairs of her father, Hiroshi Randa, who is presumed dead in a plane crash over Alaska. In Japan, she is forced to confront a shocking revelation— Hiroshi has a second family in Tokyo, including a son, Kentaro (Ren Watabe).

Bill, Keiko, and Lee — the founding members of Monarch. (Image Source: Apple TV+)

Together with her half-brother and his American ex, May (Kiersey Clemons), the trio set out to uncover the truth behind Hiroshi's legacy, and his secretive ties to Monarch. Along the way, they also team up with US military officer Lee Shaw, one of the founding members of Monarch, played by Kurt Russell and his son Wyatt Russell.

Taking place in both the 1950s and the present day, Legacy of Monsters explores the origins of the shadowy organisation that has dedicated its entire existence to studying Titans, and yet always seems to have questionable motivations.

With 10 episodes in total, Legacy of Monsters has plenty of room to flesh out the MonsterVerse in even greater detail. However, the spotlight remains firmly on the founding trio of Monarch— William Randa (Anders Holm), Keiko Mueira (Mari Yamamoto), and Lee Shaw — and Randa's grandchildren. At its core, Legacy of Monsters feels like a family drama, following Cate and Kentaro as they grapple with their father's secret life and the fact that he appears to have betrayed both their mothers.

A clutch of insectoid Titans. (Image Source: Apple TV+)

Though dearly loved by his children, Hiroshi is represented as a largely absent father. Kentaro continues to seek his approval, while Cate simmers with resentment at his abandonment of her just after G-day. Unfortunately, this is where Legacy of Monsters falters slightly— Cate's determination to find her father and remaining trauma from G-day never feel quite sympathetic, and at times it feels like an anchor dragging the show down. Similarly, Kentaro's brooding stubbornness borders on obnoxious, and it's difficult to really like him as a character.

Where the show really shines is through its monster action sequences— and Lee Shaw's charismatic onscreen presence. Both Russells are excellent in their roles, exhibiting a rogueish charm that immediately make any scene they're in a lot more fun.

May, Cate, and Kentaro. (Image Source: Apple TV+)

The show also seizes on every single opportunity for world building, paining a stark picture of a reality where coastal cities are under constant threat from a surprise emergence of Godzilla. From the Godzilla evacuation route on the floor at the airport to underground shelters and missile batteries in the heart of the city, it's incredibly clear how helpless humanity feels in the face of a life form that almost defies comprehension

San Francisco's ruined Golden Gate Bridge also makes a desolate appearance, a fitting symbol of how even our greatest monuments cannot stand against the sheer force of nature that is Godzilla.

Of course, it wouldn't be a MonsterVerse show if the stakes weren't somehow incredibly high. At one point, Shaw drops a hint as to what's really at stake— an event that is a hundred times, maybe even a thousand, more devastating than G-day.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters starts streaming on Apple TV+ on November 17.

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