While occasional claimants to his throne appear, Godzilla (or Gojira depending on your preference) is the true king of all monsters. Across nearly 70 years of movies, three distinct eras, and two Western franchises, he continues to be beloved among fans and seamlessly transitions from monstrous nuclear allegory to hero of the planet (and back again) with ease. He fights opponents like King Kong (in two different movies with another on the way), his American cousin (as seen in Godzilla: Final Wars), and Mothra — although they occasionally become allies. He even occasionally finds a kindred spirit in the likes of Millie Bobby Brown and other young people introduced to bring the Godzilla film franchise to new generations of fans.
But with the debut of the trailer for Apple TV+’s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the current worldwide manifestation of the famed kaiju and his world is about to enter a new realm to conquer: streaming live action television. But what is Monarch and why is Apple getting into the giant monster business? Let’s take a look at what we know about the Legacy of Monsters and see if we can’t find the answer to both questions.
Introduced in 2014’s Godzilla, Monarch is a shadowy government organization that has known about the existence of giant monsters for some time, although it was said to have been formed in 1950s. In that first film of the current Western Godzilla series — aka, the Monsterverse franchise — the organization dispatched Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) to track the kaiju’s progress from the Pacific Ocean to the United States, where he fought creatures called MUTOs, and ultimately leveled San Francisco.
In Kong: Skull Island — released in 2017, but set in 1973 — Monarch rescues survivors Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) from the giant ape’s tropical home, but also seemingly recruits them into their greater goal for the creatures they dubbed “Titans.” The original point of the Monarch mission to the island? To discover an entrance to the Hollow Earth, the home realm of the Titans.
In 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Monarch investigated a Mothra egg at one of its many installations. But when the researcher tasked with learning about Mothra’s behavior is kidnapped, Dr. Serizawa and Graham approach her ex-husband to help them track her down. Turns out, she was an eco-terrorist planning to release all the Titans in the hopes they would cleanse the world of humanity’s detrimental effects. Unfortunately, one of the Titans is an alien called King Ghidorah whose plans for the planet are far more devastating.
Most recently, in 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, the organization continued to monitor the activity of Godzilla and the other Titans while a cybernetics company built a Mechagodzilla under Hong Kong utilizing one of King Ghidorah’s heads as a central processing unit. After Godzilla and Kong defeated Mechagodzilla, Monarch established a base in the Hollow Earth while also allowing Kong to take up his ancestral throne within its confines. Presumably, the group will feature in the next Monsterverse film: 2024’s Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
But in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the focus shifts to two siblings who must unravel their missing father’s connection to the mysterious organization. The path leads them into the world of monsters and an army officer who has his own story to tell about Monarch’s goals in the 1950s. Those secrets put the group in danger as Monarch is threatened by his knowledge. And that’s considering the public already knows giant monsters are real. But how much do they know about Monarch? While telling a character-focused story about the Monsterverse, Monarch will also reveal more about its titular organization. And if the trailer released in October is any indication, Monarch’s seemingly benevolent purpose may be a smokescreen for something darker.
The secrets and legacies to be learned in the series make the program a fairly good fit for AppleTV+, which offers great character interaction in shows like Ted Lasso and Shrinking and high-concept programs like Foundation and See.
As Monarch is based in the US and the crux of their current problem is a US soldier, the bulk of the series will take place in the United States, so expect locales like the still-destroyed San Francisco, obscure army bases in the desert, and other familiar American spots. But as Monarch also has bases all over the globe, it is possible we will spend some time in places like Japan, The Philippines, and maybe even Skull Island. The October trailer indicates as much with the addition of an snowbound or arctic environment.
But more interesting than the where of Monarch is the when of the series. Per AppleTV+’s press releases, the series is set in the wake of 2014’s Godzilla, just as the country comes to grips with the existence of giant monsters and it recovers from Godzilla and the Titan’s devastating fight in the City by the Bay.
Moving the clock back to a time period following the first Monsterverse film has some advantages. For one: Godzilla is out in the oceans, but is seemingly defending the planet per Serizawa’s prediction — although, the trailers still see him dealing out plenty of damage. Meanwhile, the character drama can focus on its new characters without having to explain where Madison Russell (Brown), Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), and other survivors of the films are — or, for that matter, how Monarch is handling damage control following the Titan rampage across Hong Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong.
Additionally, the series will also spend some time in the 1950s, telling the tale of the Army officer with information potentially damaging to Monarch. Setting its flashback tale in that decade is no accident. The first Godzilla film debuted in 1954 and it is, in its way, a reaction to the US’s use of nuclear arms in Japan at the conclusion of World War II. We also imagine some smart film theorists can also find a connection between Godzilla and the US occupation of Japan, which ended in 1952.
But in terms of the Monarch world, it is possible the officer’s recollections will take the series to US-occupied Japan, the earliest days of Monarch, or, perhaps, to other shadowy US operations science fiction film and conspiracy theorists love to mention. Such theories were a favorite topic of Titan podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) in Godzilla vs. Kong, after all.
In an interesting twist, the Russells – father and son in real life – will both play Lee Shaw, the Army officer at the center of Monarch‘s story. Kurt plays the embittered Shaw in modern day, while Wyatt takes point in the 1950s flashbacks. As seen in the initial trailer, Shaw also worked directly with Monarch and hoped it would protect the world as the Titans had in primordial days. But it is possible Shaw’s tale has something to do with an attempt to destroy Godzilla with a nuclear bomb in 1954 (as mentioned in the 2014 film) or maybe even the group’s early attempts to find the Hollow Earth. That submersible the younger Shaw enters in the trailer is definitely of a curious design. In the October trailer, the older Shaw is very suspicious of the organization, but also willing to scour the world in search of the truth.
Watabe, as Kentaro, and Sawai, as Cate, are the siblings following their father’s clues about Monarch back to Shaw. And as glimpsed in the first trailer, Clemons’s May is aiding them in their quest. The October trailer also revealed Cate’s close encounter with Godzilla and Monarch in San Francisco and that she may be able to find her father.
Also spotted in both trailers is John Goodman as a man hoping to leave behind a “legacy” to undo some past mistake. Based on the satchel seen in the first trailer, that man is likely Bill Randa, the character Goodman played in Skull Island, the director of Monarch in 1973 who very much did not make it home after reaching the island. But will what he left behind prove as dangerous to Monarch as Shaw’s story?
Yamamoto, meanwhile plays Keiko, Tippett takes on a character named Tim — the seeming Monarch agent who claims Cate’s files belong to the organization in the October trailer — Lasowski is Duvall, and Holm, curiously enough, is an undisclosed character. Although, his character appears several times in the second trailer, seemingly on Skull Island. The camera he holds suggests his story is also in the past.
(Photo by Apple TV+)
In the fiction of the series, that question may yet be solved, but in our world, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters was co-developed and executive produced by Chris Black and Matt Fraction. Black is a veteran of Apple’s Severance and shows like Mad Men and Lone Star while comic book fans will recognize Fraction from various titles and his legendary run writing Marvel’s Hawkeye with artists David Aja and Annie Wu. His TV credits are limited to scripting an episode of Da Vinci’s Demons and as a consulting producer on Disney+’s Hawkeye series.
In another Marvel connection, WandaVision director Matt Shakman directed the first two episodes and serves as an executive producer, as does Obi-Wan Kenobi writer Joby Harold, Tory Tunnell, Andy Goddard, Brad Van Arragon, and Andrew Colville. Additionally, Hiro Matsuoka and Takemasa Arita join as EPs on behalf of Toho Co., Ltd, the company that owns Godzilla and his library of characters.
Other directors on the series include Mairzee Almas, Andy Goddard, Julian Holmes, and Hiromi Kamata. The writing staff includes Black, Fraction, Milla Bell-Hart, Andrew Coville, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Al Leston, Amanda Overton, and Mariko Tamaki.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters debuts on Apple TV+ with its first two episodes on November 17. The rest of its 10-episode season will debut weekly on Fridays through January 12, 2024.
The review embargo for Monarch: Legacy of Monsters has not yet been announced. The Godzilla universe series will get a Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes when the review embargo lifts and the season has at least five reviews.