Spoiler-Free TV Series Review: MONARCH: LEGACY OF MONSTERS (2023), Episodes 1–4

November 17, 2023

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at josephperry@gmail.com. He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

Terrific acting, well-written drama, and beautifully crafted kaiju attacks highlight Apple TV+’s series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, based on Legendary’s MonsterVerse, taking place after the battle between Godzilla and the Titans as seen in Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla


Monarch: Legacy of Monsters combines conspiracy thriller, family intrigue, and monster movie mayhem elements deftly, though viewers may find the time- and location-hopping a bit jarring at first. Obviously, the narrative is a nonlinear one, and even once some initial timelines are established, new ones are introduced. Viewers who can keep track of this approach will be kept on their toes, while others who just give into the flow of the proceedings shouldn’t find themselves too lost.  



After a kaiju-riffic cold open to the first episode, we are introduced to Cate Randa (Anna Sawai), who travels from San Francisco — she was an extremely up-close witness to Godzilla’s 2014 emergence in San Francisco — to Tokyo to deal with her recently deceased father’s estate. This won’t be an easy task, as she makes a startling discovery that impacts her greatly (not a spoiler, as this happens early on in the debut episode): her father had a second family in Japan, and when she and her half-brother Kentaro (Ren Watabe), along with Kentaro’s mother Emiko (Qyoko Kudo), learn of this, matters get highly uncomfortable, only to become more complicated as the episodes unfold. Kentaro’s tech-head ex-girlfriend May (Kiersey Clemons) becomes involved when the siblings uncover some mysterious old computer files from their father’s belongings that involve something known as Monarch, an entity with which MonsterVerse viewers will be quite familiar. The siblings’ path toward finding out about the disappearance of their father leads them to former American soldier Lee Shaw (Kurt Russell, obviously having a blast in his role), and once he becomes involved, high adventure and encounters with kaiju — called Titans here — kick into gear, with Monarch officials hot on their trail.



Another main plotline takes place in the 1950s, which involves a younger Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt) and his assignment to provide assistance to scientist Keiko Randa (Mari Yamamoto) and — to Shaw’s initial reluctance — cryptozoologist Bill Randa (Anders Holm), Cate’s grandparents. The trio is on a quest to gather information about legendary giant monsters, which they soon find out are not mythical creatures but real, deadly ones.  


The cinematography is gorgeous, and though I prefer the good old days of rubber suit giant monsters, the CGI kaiju look terrific. I haven’t mentioned Godzilla much yet, but fear not, he makes his first appearance in the debut episode — in familiar footage — and you’ll see him again later, and the initial four episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters serve up some fun creature-feature surprises when the big fella isn’t nearby.



Viewers expecting wall-to-wall giant-monster fights are bound to be a little disappointed, but those who prefer engaging human plots between kaiju appearances will feel well rewarded with the first four episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. The production values are top-notch, the protagonists are easy to get behind, the direction is solid, the beasts look great, and the initial foursome of episodes marks the series as a can’t miss for creature-feature aficionados.


Check back right here at Horror Fuel for reviews of future episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters



Monarch: Legacy of Monsters makes its global debut on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes debuting on Friday, November 17, 2023, followed by one episode every Friday through January 12, 2024.


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