Monster Movie Mayhem: Monarch – Legacy of Monsters


Tiger Media Network

The “Monsterverse” is Legendary Pictures’ stab at a cinematic universe, but unlike Marvel’s “MCU”, or whatever the heck DC is doing, or Universal’s “Dark Universe”, (That last one was a joke… Laugh.) Legendary only has two characters capable of holding up a film: Godzilla and King Kong – since they don’t have the guts to do something like make a solo Dogora film.

The “Monsterverse” began as all the actually successful cinematic universes began… by not trying to be one. Crazy old Yoshimitsu Banno, who had been exiled from making another Godzilla movie in Japan after he made “Godzilla vs. Hedorah,” was shopping around his wild “Godzilla 3D to the MAX” idea. Eventually, that would kinda sorta get picked up by Legendary, who then went and made a totally different Godzilla movie, that being “Godzilla” (2014). 

Generally, people like this movie, though it’s far from a perfect film. It sets up an interesting world, gives us cool new monsters in the form of the MUTOs, and delivers some pretty good monster action. However, the film has some pretty big problems. For starters, they kill off the only good character by the end of the first act and replace him with his boring “army man” son. Then there’s the big one that every review website ran with, “for a movie called ‘Godzilla,’ there sure isn’t a lot of Godzilla.” 

However, if you’ve ever actually sat down and watched a couple of Godzilla movies, you’d know they typically don’t have a lot of Godzilla screen time. The real issue is the fact that the film would show that a monster fight is about to start, and then cut away from it… Understandably, this ticked a lot of people off. 

After that film was a success, we got “Kong Skull Island,” and by now, it was confirmed that this would be the start of a cinematic universe… between two franchises that have already done a crossover. Anyway, “Kong Skull Island” is the best film in the “Monsterverse.” Great action scenes, that are for once well-lit, and a great cast of characters (aside from Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston’s characters) make for a very fun movie. 

So after two entries that seemed to be only getting better, along with Legendary’s previous kaiju films prior to the “Monsterverse,” it seemed that they could do no wrong. Plus, the next Godzilla movie was set to have Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah all return. The director was always talking about how big of a Godzilla fan he was, it seemed like this was going to be the greatest Godzilla movie ever… While “Godzilla King of the Monsters” was hyped up by fans upon release, over time, most – including myself – have grown a strong distaste for the film. Bad characters, a half-baked story, and bloated over-the-top action sequences obscured by rain and snow made for one of the worst movies in the franchise, and “Godzilla vs. Kong” wasn’t much different.

So going into “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters”, I personally wasn’t too excited, especially since we had just gotten “Godzilla Minus One,” which almost everyone, fans, critics, and casual movie goes, could all agree was one of the best films of the year, in a year stacked with big movies. 

The idea of a “Monsterverse” TV show following Monarch had been speculated upon since the cinematic universe was first announced. Back then, we would compare it to “Agents of SHIELD,” which I only remember because Disney Channel wouldn’t stop showing commercials for it back in the day. Remember Disney Channel? Anyways, back then the idea was exciting, but after two duds, I had zero hope for this show when it was revealed to actually be happening. So how did it turn out?

“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” has two different stories shown alongside each other. The main plot takes place in 2015, just after the events of “Godzilla”, and follows Cate Randa, whose father had recently gone missing and presumed dead. She decides to take his keys and collect his belongings from his house in Japan, but ends up discovering he has another wife and kid over there. While she’s trying to figure out what’s going on with her brother Kentaro, who she didn’t know she had, they both end up coming across mysterious files in their dad’s office. So they take the files to Kentaro’s computer nerd friend, May, but upon accessing them, they alert Monarch. 

The three of them are on the run now, and end up teaming up with an old guy named Lee Shaw. Together, the four of them travel around the world trying to find Cate and Kentaro’s dad, and end up running into a few giant monsters along the way. The other storyline takes place in the 1950s and follows Shaw, and Keiko and Bill Randa, as they discover various giant monsters and begin establishing Monarch. However, while they want to study the creatures, the US government wants them destroyed immediately.

Of the two storylines, the B plot is way more interesting. The characters are more likable, watching these early expeditions is cool, and the conflicts between the scientists and the military are interesting. Meanwhile, the main plot follows three of the most annoying characters in the franchise. They’re supposed to be young adults, but Cate, Kentaro, and May feel like teenagers. They’re very annoying and unlikable, and the show often ends up on these tangents looking at their pasts, and rarely ever do these flashbacks actually add anything important. In fact, one of them straight up shows that Cate cheated on her partner, making her a hypocrite for being mad at her dad… but that entire flashback adds absolutely nothing to the story, and sorry but I don’t really care about Kenatro’s art show or May’s crappy former boss that gets haphazardly shoved into the plot. Fortunately Shaw and the Monarch agent, Tim, are really good characters and seriously carry the entire 2015 storyline.

Godzilla roars at Cate Randa during the 2014 attack.

Kentaro Randa prepares to shoot the Frost Vark with a flare gun.

Of course, you’re here for the monsters, right? Hahahaha! Yeah, this show really doesn’t have a whole lot of monster action. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but you need a good story and good characters, and the show is a mixed bag in that department. What monster stuff we do get is pretty good, though. The new monsters are, for the most part, pretty cool. Effects across the board are solid. Godzilla does show up in this show occasionally, and honestly the most joy I get out of this show is watching people complain that there isn’t enough Godzilla, but this time they can’t fall back on the whole, “It’s called ‘Godzilla,’ but there’s no Godzilla” argument this time. I will say, though, the final battle between Godzilla and the Ion Dragon is great. It’s short but sweet and brutal… I do kinda wish we got a bit more of that though, but I wouldn’t say that the lack of monster action ruins the show or anything like that.

Godzilla does battle with the Ion Dragon.

So yeah, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” was better than expected. It still has its issues, particularly with the main characters, as well as some very slow pacing around the middle, and yeah… more monster stuff would have been cool, but at the end of the day, I enjoyed this more than half of the “Monsterverse” movies. Some of the characters are pretty good, the 50s plot line is great, and the monster action we do get is fantastic. I give this series six “military general stereotypes” out of ten.

Connor Keating is a junior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. Connor is an old-school movie fan, particularly Japanese monster movies, and is an avid DVD collector.