Monarch Legacy of Monsters Review: A New Era for MonsterVerse Storytelling
“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” emerges as a curious beast. This Apple TV+ series, an offshoot of the MonsterVerse franchise, ventures into uncharted territories where the colossal footprints of Godzilla and Kong have tread before, albeit on a different medium.
At its heart, “Monarch” is a story of humanity, deeply rooted in character-driven narratives and swathed in a monster-movie cloak. The series ambitiously straddles two timelines and multiple generations, weaving a complex tapestry of relationships and secrets. In the 1950s, we’re introduced to the beginnings of Monarch, a clandestine monster-hunting organization, through the eyes of a young Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell), Dr. Keiko Mira (Mari Yamamoto), and Dr. Billy Randa (Anders Holm). Fast forward to the 2010s, and we encounter a fresh set of characters – Cate (Anna Sawai), her brother Kentaro (Ren Watabe), and May (Kiersey Clemons) – grappling with the aftermath of a Godzilla attack and their own familial mysteries.
The series draws strength from the Russell duo – Kurt and Wyatt, playing Lee Shaw at different stages of life. This father-son pairing is more than a casting coup; it’s a masterstroke that brings a unique depth to Shaw’s character. Wyatt’s portrayal of Shaw as a gruff yet benign soldier in the 1950s is balanced by Kurt’s vibrant, charming take on the older Shaw in the 2010s. Their performances anchor the series, providing a consistent thread through the time-hopping narrative.
“Monarch” attempts to dive deep into the psychological aftermath of monster attacks, a theme often glossed over in its cinematic counterparts. It notably explores the PTSD of Godzilla’s San Francisco attack through the character of Cate, offering a poignant look at the human cost of such fantastical destruction. However, this human-centric approach is a double-edged sword. While it enriches the narrative, it also leads to moments where the human drama overshadows the monstrous spectacle that fans of the genre might crave.
The non-linear storytelling, a daring choice by showrunner Chris Black and writer Matt Fraction, adds a layer of intrigue to the plot. This structural choice pays off by deepening character development and enriching the show’s mythos, although it sometimes muddles the pacing and clarity of the narrative. The focus on character backstories and the unraveling of family secrets offer a novel perspective on the MonsterVerse, but the execution is not without its flaws. The dialogue often lacks punch, and there are moments where the narrative seems to tread water, diluting the story’s overall impact.
Visually, “Monarch” is a mixed bag. While the special effects are commendable, especially considering the constraints of a TV budget, the costume design falls short, failing to transport viewers across different eras convincingly. This shortcoming is noticeable in a series that hops through time, requiring a stronger visual delineation between periods.
Despite these drawbacks, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” is a bold attempt to expand the MonsterVerse into television. It offers a refreshing focus on the human element, intertwined with the lore of titanic creatures. The series succeeds in parts – particularly in its character-driven drama and innovative narrative structure – but struggles in others, especially in maintaining a consistent engagement and thrill that the monster genre demands.
While “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” might not reach the pinnacle of the MonsterVerse, it certainly doesn’t lurk in its depths either. Balancing its human stories with the awe of its monstrous counterparts, the series offers a new lens through which to view these iconic creatures. It’s a commendable effort that deserves recognition for its ambition and for taking risks in a well-trodden genre.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is now streaming on Apple TV+.