Apple TV+ sci-fi drama Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, based on Legendary’s Monsterverse — Godzilla, y’all — debuted at New York Comic Con on Friday morning and the streamer released a full trailer. Along with the release, Apple invited critics to post their early reviews of the series that features Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell starring as Army officer Lee Shaw at different points in his life.
Following the devastating battle between Godzilla and the Titans that leveled San Francisco and the shocking revelation to humanity that monsters are real, the series tracks two siblings, Cate (Anna Sawai) and Kentaro (Ren Watabe), who discover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch. Clues lead them into the world of monsters and to Shaw. Taking place in the 1950s and half a century later where Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows, the dramatic saga spans three generations, revealing buried secrets and the ways that epic, earth-shattering events can reverberate through our lives.
The 10-episode season also stars Kiersey Clemons, Mari Yamamoto, Anders Holm, Joe Tippett, and Elisa Lasowski. The Legendary Television production is co-developed and executive produced by Chris Black and Matt Fraction. Matt Shakman directs the first two episodes and serves as executive producer alongside Joby Harold and Tory Tunnell from Safehouse Pictures, Andy Goddard, Brad Van Arragon, and Andrew Colville. Hiro Matsuoka and Takemasa Arita executive produce on behalf of Toho Co., Ltd., the owner of the Godzilla character.
Here’s what critics are saying about Monarch: Legacy of Monsters season 1:
Kurt Russell is perhaps the best thing about the entire show. The actor is so breezy, so charming, that he lights up the screen whenever he appears. His son does well too, but it’s the older Russell who holds our attention … This may be a streaming TV series, but Russell is an old-school movie star, and that lends “Monarch” some much-needed juice.
—Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm
While the story can often feel thin and overstretched, the return of thick Godzilla plus the addition of Kurt Russell is a largely winning combo.
—Chase Hutchinson, Collider
While Monarch: Legacy of Monsters does have some thrilling titan fights, the show doesn’t present itself as a kaiju free-for-all. This sci-fi series is a human drama through and through.
—Megan Peters, ComicBook.com
We get actual character intrigue and development — the best of this comes from the trio of Sawai’s Cate, Ren Watabe as Kentaro, and Kiersey Clemons as May. The time we spend with them uncovering the mysteries of Monarch (and their own families) is the backbone of the show … And while contained in a sci-fi plot, it’s pretty relatable to what one imagines an Earth-wide siege by kaiju to be.
—Daniel Dockery, Polygon
While its occasional deep-cut references demand a familiarity with a franchise most audiences are ambivalent about — who really remembers the nuances of Godzilla: King Of The Monsters? — its ambitious time- and globe-trotting storytelling makes the most of the series’ giant canvas, even in a smaller screen size.
—John Nugent, Empire
With Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the MonsterVerse heads down the same road to ruin that has plagued (and is still plaguing) Marvel: Trying and failing to port the big-budget spectacle of Godzilla to TV.
—Clint Worthington, Consequence
As improbable as it sounds, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ focus on individual people spurred to action by the emergence of Godzilla and his fellow Titans is exactly what makes the show a surprise delight — one that feels like it has potential to be both a proper hit for Apple TV Plus and a strong step forward for the MonsterVerse franchise as a whole.
—Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge
Splitting its narrative across two different time periods – one of which follows scientist Keiko (Mari Yamamoto), explorer Bill (Anders Holm) and soldier Lee (Wyatt Russell) in the 1950s as they work to establish Monarch in a post-nuclear world…Through the first gang, Monarch develops a trio that have a believable chemistry and consistently fun back-and-forth, with the comedic talents of Holm perfectly complementing the dramatic chops of Yamamoto, and Wyatt Russell bringing things home with his effortless charm.
—George White, Radio Times
Do we care what secrets Monarch may unearth? Not especially. But it’s to the show’s credit that we do care what happens to the characters, and what the hell the missing Hiroshi was thinking. That, the grand scale, and the fact that the direction is occasionally allowed to get weird is enough of a hook so far.
—Luke Y. Thompson, SuperHeroHype
Once Monarch actually starts producing the monster-heavy set pieces promised by its title, the series becomes significantly more fun. Its third episode, which follows the show’s heroes as they travel from Japan to South Korea and then to Alaska, is such a rip-roaring, breezy blockbuster adventure that it manages to achieve a big-screen, cinematic quality that still feels relatively elusive on television. The best version of Monarch is, in other words, the one that most resembles a massive monster movie.
—Alex Welch, Inverse