Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell play two men in different eras in the brilliant Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. New from AppleTV+
Note: Reviewer had access to 8 of the 10 Episodes of the series.
The Western Kaiju verse they have been building since 2015’s Godzilla has been an interesting world-building experience heavy on Kaiju fights but light on explanation of exposition. Kong: Skull Island; Godzilla: King of Monsters; and Godzilla vs Kong have all been exercises in style and what a mega-budget can give you in terms of epic action. For those who felt that the human element has been lacking in the Western version – Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is here to not only correct that but possibly bring new fans into the fold.
Developed by Matt Fraction and Chris Black the series is the type of intelligent, emotionally satisfying adventure series that is rarely seen. The duo has created a world where the MUTOS (and Godzilla) have left large mysteries as well as trauma in their wake. Monarch though at its most crass is to fill in the plot points left by four films; the series feels like it elevates those films more than filling in gaps. The series takes everything and working in multiple timelines creates a series that is as thrilling, if not more so, than the films they’ve produced thus far.
This would all be for naught if it wasn’t for the performances that do the heavy lifting in the series. Though the series is very Kaiju-centric there is a healthy amount of human drama, politics, and spycraft-based mysteries that make up the bulk of the series. Faction and Black have created multiple storylines and larger mythos in this first season to make anyone who is a true fan of Kaiju films very happy. They have definitely taken their queue from Hideaki Anno’s modern Godzilla work. The result of this is that stars Kurt and Wyatt Russell are given some of their best genre-based material in recent memory.
In fact, the Russell’s with their unique performance are the standout performances. Their work as Major Lee Shaw is exactly what you expect from Kurt and what you have hoped for from Wyatt. The performances as the younger and the much older versions are nearly flawless with both actors working not in a form of mimicry but truly fascinating performances that echo back to one another. It is a truly magnificent piece of the entire whole of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters how the two men piece who Lee Shaw is.
Not to be outdone by the Russell’s the other leads and supporting cast are wonderful. Mari Yamamoto and Anders Holm delight as Keiko and Bill Randa (Holms doing a great younger John Goodman who cameos in the series) the scientists who with Shaw begin to build Monarch – for better or worse. The trio of Ana Sawai as Cate, Kiersey Clemons as May, and Ren Watabe as Kentaro bring a very different energy to what could have been a standard fellowship of adventurers. Sawai in particular is great as a survivor of the San Francisco attacks by Godzilla that has a major case of PTSD.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters isn’t your average big-budget science fiction show about monsters. The care and craft that developers Matt Fraction and Chris Black as well as their amazing lineup of writers and directors have put into the show is astounding. Anyone who loves great long-form storytelling – let alone the Kaiju genre – will do well to watch this one.
This one is not to be missed.