How Monarch: Legacy of Monsters sucked me Into the MonsterVerse

In honor of the season finale of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, we take a tour through the history of Godzilla, and the strange ambivalence which his presence inspires.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters © 2023 Apple TV
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters © 2023 Apple TV /

A month ago, I’d never seen a single movie featuring Godzilla. Then, I saw the trailer for Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. My first reaction was, Really? We’re still doing this giant-monster-destroys-cities thing? It was, perhaps, a snobbish response, but I just didn’t understand what this show – or any of the recent movies featuring giant CGI monsters – could explore that hadn’t already been done in the almost 70 years since Godzilla’s inception.

Ironically, my disbelief ultimately sucked me in. Not once in my life had I been intrigued by characters like Godzilla. Not once had I felt compelled to watch them rampage across the screen, wreaking digital havoc. I preferred my dragons to be a little more magical, and preferably ride-able. So, like a typical fantasy hero, I ventured into the unknown.

But every hero needs a mentor, someone who helps the hero understand their adversary. In this case, in order to understand Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, Google told me I should watch Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017). That’s when I discovered what the “MonsterVerse” was. Because I’m a stickler for detail, I didn’t want to miss any potential references to Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019) or Godzilla vs. Kong (2021). So I watched all of them.

But the movies of the MonsterVerse weren’t my real mentors. They, too, were full of CGI monsters and digital havoc-wreaking that hadn’t appealed to me for decades. No. If I was going to understand my adversary, I had to go back to the beginning: To the original Godzilla (1954) and King Kong (1933). They would be my guides. They would help me understand where these monsters came from and why creators and viewers have resurrected them for nearly a century.

As a part of their journeys, heroes usually learn to defeat, vanquish, or otherwise slay monsters. That’s what I thought I would learn as I waded into a movie franchise devoted to giant, overly destructive dinosaurs, gorillas, moths, alien dragons, and robots: How does humanity band together to slay the monster? I thought I would find stories of courage and hope in the face of despair and certain annihilation. The last thing I expected to find was ambivalence.

From 1954 to the contemporary MonsterVerse, stories about Godzilla contain a contradictory tension in which we find ourselves both anticipating and dreading Godzilla’s arrival. We are mesmerized by his power while eager to see what the humans can do to stop him. While Godzilla is terrifying and destructive, he also possesses this immense nobility: He is the balancer of Nature, the great equalizer who reminds humanity of how small we are on the scale of time and creation. On one hand, we want Godzilla – or something like him – to exist. On the other hand, we’d be horrified if he actually did.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters thrives on this ambivalence. Throughout the show, some characters try to help Godzilla protect the earth, while others recover from the damage he has done to their lives and their families. Godzilla places them in this place of trepidation, and after each episode, I find myself equally ambivalent: I want to cheer for Godzilla, but I also can’t ignore the way his presence has fractured so many relationships among the characters.

There are no heroes in the world of the kaiju. My journey into the Monsterverse is not complete. It leaves me with more questions than answers, and as the final episode of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters airs, the most pressing one is this: Will there be a Season 2?

Next. Monarch. What Sets Monarch: Legacy of Monsters apart from other MonsterVerse content. dark

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