‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ Review: Godzilla + Kurt Russell = (Mostly) Fun


There aren’t many purely great things in life, but Kurt Russell saying, “Dinner time, you son of a bitch” while doing battle with an enormous monster emerging from beneath the earth is certainly one of them. In the first five episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the new Apple TV+ series expanding upon the world where massive creatures exist as explored in past films Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs. Kong, there is a whole lot of subterfuge and spectacle surrounding this that the story wades its way through. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but there is always the constant charisma of Russell to fall back on. Whether it’s letting out a shout as he steals a car to uttering snarky retorts when being interrogated, he is the main attraction to the whole experience (sorry, Godzilla). Although the manner in which it bounces back and forth between times can temper his brilliance, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters still manages to shine when it counts.

What Is ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ About?

godzilla legacy of monsters
Image via AppleTV+

Taking place after the destruction of San Francisco, the series introduces itself via a family drama surrounding two siblings who aren’t initially aware the other exists. Kentaro, played by Ren Watabe, is an artist living his life in Japan when Cate, played by Anna Sawai of the spectacular series Pachinko, shows up at his home. As it turns out, they both share the same father, who has since disappeared. The more they dig into his past life, the more they discover his connection to the shadowy organization known as Monarch. Helping them out is the mysterious May, played by Kiersey Clemons, who seems to be carrying some secrets of her own. One of the few people who may have the answers that this trio can trust is Lee Shaw, played by Kurt Russell in the present day, and his son Wyatt Russell in his younger years during the 1950s, who they’ll have to unite with. As they travel around the globe in the search for their father and the truth about Monarch, they’ll encounter various creatures along the way.

On the one hand, the series is almost a globe-trotting adventure story where this ragtag group has to take on the powers of a shaken world that wants to keep the truth hidden. On the other, it is a more dramatic reflection on family and trauma. It isn’t always the most focused in exploring this, save for an episode more fully immersed in Cate’s memories of what the so-called “G-Day” was like for her, but it does offer more of something to chew on amidst the unfolding spectacle. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is a monster story that is more about the people than the creatures themselves, with gestures towards something a bit reflective about catastrophe and how we pick up the pieces of our broken lives in the vein of something like Invasion.

There is an earnestness to the story as both Kentaro and Cate must come to terms with the fact that the father they thought they knew may not only be gone forever but was never even honest with them while he was around. This can create some unintentionally silly moments where emotional confessions about the past are then intermixed with lines about how Godzilla factors into the whole thing, but the series still is mostly able to hold together.

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Kurt Russell Remains the King in ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’

Kurt Russell as Lee Shaw in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.
Image via Apple TV+

Though some may bemoan the lack of Godzilla, who mostly just pops up now and again in the beginning episodes of the season, this is okay when there is an even greater force in Kurt Russell. Without overselling his role too much, especially since he too can frequently fade into the background, he’s just such a fun screen presence. Even as the effects of the creatures themselves can be a little hit or miss, the ease with which Russell leans into cheese remains delightful. When the gang finds themselves in a colder environment, there are even some moments where you feel the spark of the man who helped make The Thing such a classic. This series is obviously not as sharp, often spinning its wheels as it searches for the next destination to aim the characters at, but it’s still good fun with Russell in the driver’s seat. While the show plays around with juxtaposing the grizzled older version of the character with the one played by his son, even making use of a cheeky little crossfade at one point to show how he has changed, the story is made better when it spends more time in the present.

While Monarch: Legacy of Monsters may test the patience of those just looking for giant creatures to fight each other, there’s plenty of potential to what the series is getting at. Plus, Russell is as good a person as any to hold the stage while Godzilla waits in the wings. For now, the show seems relatively confident in letting its story have room to breathe and not getting too caught up in connections to the broader universe. There are some clunky narrative hiccups here and there, though Monarch: Legacy of Monsters never lets that hold it back for too long. What its own legacy will turn out to be is still a mystery, but it’s one worth exploring along with the characters. It might still get blown out of the water by the upcoming Godzilla Minus One, but for now, the water is just fine.

Rating: B

The Big Picture

  • Kurt Russell’s charismatic performance steals the show in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, proving to be more important than the presence of the giant creatures themselves.
  • The series mixes a global adventure story with a family drama about lies and trauma, although the exploration of these themes can feel unfocused at times.
  • While some may be disappointed by the limited appearances of Godzilla thus far, the potential of the series and Russell’s performance still hold it together.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters premieres November 17 on Apple TV+ with two episodes. Episodes will be released weekly through January 12.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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