This article contains spoilers for Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” films.
Apple+‘s newest blockbuster series, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, has now arrived to flesh out the larger than life “MonsterVerse.” Legacy Pictures has been building this shared universe filled with infamous kaiju ever since the reboot of Godzilla in 2014, and since, has given us all the classic monsters including Ghidora, Mothra, Rodan and of course, Kong.
Legacy of Monsters helps fill the little gaps in the periphery of the story, fleshing out the humans who choose to find, study, and often protect these massive creatures. At the center of it all has always been the imposing consortium known as “Monarch.” With all the giant-sized kaiju-chaos that can often be the most memorable moments of these monster movies, it’s understandable if Monarch shrinks in the presence of the true stars of the show. Not to worry, though, because we’re about to recap everything we know about the shadowy organization, and its place in the MonsterVerse.
What is Monarch?
One of the most interesting aspects of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is that audiences quickly get a glimpse into the grassroots inception of the massive organization that has been a mainstay in the MonsterVerse mythology.
Its humble beginnings, according to the show, included merely an eclectic trio of opportunists and explorers: Dr. Keiko Mira (Mary Yamamoto), a scientist who has been tracking strange radiation patterns spanning remote areas of the globe, Lee Shaw, her newly appointed military liaison (portrayed in two different time periods by father-son team Wyatt and Kurt Russell) and Bill Randa (Anders Holm), a filmmaker and writer. Fans of the franchise will recall Randa is a recurring character, portrayed later in life by John Goodman in Kong: Skull Island.
The trio almost literally stumble on to each other to form a great working bond. Shaw is the dreamer, with a knowledge of ancient myth and the stories being told about legendary creatures. Mira, the pragmatist, careful in her approach but driven by her curiosity. Naturally Shaw is the no-nonsense strong hand of the group, but hides his own nature as someone hoping to impress the military brass and climb the ranks.
Eventually, with the backing of the U.S. Army, Monarch evolves into a massive conglomerate of globally recognized scientists and the armed forces. They work more in the shadows, hiding a lot of their knowledge of the existence of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) from the public. While they claim that their work is predominantly to protect these colossal Kaijus, there has always been an ulterior motive within the military aspect of the company. There are those either within Monarch, or who work alongside Monarch members, who seemingly feel as if control or possibly weaponizing the MUTOs is the primary goal. Famously, Walter Simmons, billionaire and CEO of Apex Cybernetics, used the skulls of fallen kaijus to power a psionic link to his Mechgodzilla, and make the man made monstrous machine come to life in Godzilla vs. Kong.
Simmons also wanted to harness the energy of Hollow Earth to power his greatest creation, and possibly corner the energy market, and he’s not the only one who thinks along those lines. Legacy of Monsters shows General Puckett (Shaw’s superior) trying to either harness the atomic energy of Godzilla, find a way to control the creature, or likely, destroy it.
Where Has Monarch Appeared in the MonsterVerse?
Broken down chronologically (at least in Legendary’s MonsterVerse), one of Monarch’s first prominent missions was on Skull island, during the aptly named Kong: Skull Island (2017).
In a familiar trio formation, an older Bill Randa is accompanied by geologist, Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), and biologist San Lin (Jian Tian) to map out the famous island and study its wildlife. As is the common tendency with Monarch, the mission went horribly wrong, thanks in no small part to Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to take on the title king, and naturally losing everything to Kong.
Thankfully, however, some survived the mission, and when they returned Brooks and Lin decided to share the full truth with journalists James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), revealing that Monarch uncovered myths about other MOTUs all across the world.
In 1999, prior to the events of what later becomes known as “G-Day” in the contemporary MonsterVerse, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) travels to the Philippines to study a mysterious cave-in that escalated the remains of a MUTO that resembles the same species as Godzilla.
Jump forward to the events of 2014’s Godzilla, where the king of the monsters unleashes absolute chaos in San Francisco. While the world is in panic, and Monarch scrambles to find the next move to contain the destructive power of these Kaiju, Serizawa is the only voice of reason, having studied these monsters for decades. He deduces that Godzilla came out of hibernation to fight these other MOTUs, as they are natural enemies. There is a strange balance in the world’s exostructure, and Godzilla is perhaps the only one that can restore that balance and ensure the other Kaiju don’t ravage the globe. Hence Watanabe’s famous line “let them fight,” which has become a meme for the better part of a decade.
During his time at Monarch, Serizawa was not the only voice of reason opposing the more militaristic approach of some of his counterparts within Monarch. In the events of Godzilla (2014), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), history repeats itself, as there are seemingly always those who believe nuclear weapons and trying to destroy the monsters are the answer. Serizawa was the first to warn against this, knowing that any atomic energy unleashed on the MOTU was likely to feed the creatures more than harm them.
His friend, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) had a massive amount of hate for these creatures, especially Godzilla, as during G-Day, his family was caught in the destruction, and Russell lost his young son. It was the calmer approach that eventually washed over Russell, realizing that his friend, Serizawa’s sensible approach of allowing the creatures to exist and bring balance to the world was really the only way.
Godzilla, who has once again been dormant since his battle with King Ghidorah and becoming the new King of the Monsters, resurfaces to face off against the only other MOTU who is worthy of the King moniker. In Godzilla vs Kong (2021), Monarch plays a much more mysterious part in the MonsterVerse. Anthropological linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her surrogate daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) have a way of communicating with the mighty Kong, and Jia can also sense the impending battle between the two titans.
After Kong is badly injured in his battle with Godzilla, it is only when the the sensible survivors of Monarch band together, they save Kong’s life, and once again give the world the balance it needs. Together, Kong and Godzilla destroy the rogue Mechagodzilla, and retreat to their natural habitats. Monarch continues to monitor all MOTUs, particularly with Jia living in a Monarch observation base deep within the subterranean environment of Hollow Earth, where Kong resides.
What About Netflix’s Skull Island?
The animated series is perhaps the one contemporary MonsterVerse piece that stays away from Monarch the most. The premise of the show follows a group of survivors, who after a shipwreck find themselves on the famous island of monsters.
The only major tie to Monarch is that two of the main characters, Mike (voiced by Darren Barney) and his father, Hiro (Yuki Matsuzaki) obtain the map to the mysterious island from one of the members of the expedition to Skull Island in 1973, during the events of Kong: Skull Island.
Where Else Has Monarch Appeared?
There have been several accompanying graphic novels that have really fleshed out the history of Monarch, but most notably is Godzilla: Awakening, published the same year audiences got to see the return of Godzilla to the big screen.
Within its pages, it is revealed that it was Eiji Serizawa, Ishiro’s father who actually formed Monarch several months after Godzilla’s iconic attack on Tokyo in 1954. In 1980, Eiji asks Ishiro to urgently join him in Tokyo, where the senior Serizawa reveals to his son the deep secret he has been hiding – that he has been studying these MOTUs ever since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It was Eiji’s theory that man’s creation of the atomic age is what once again unleashed the Kaiju on the world. The only acknowledgment of this being canon within the cinematic MonsterVerse is a detailed bio of Ishiro can be seen on screen during Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and it describes how he is considered to be “Monarch royalty.”
It remains to be seen if Monarch: Legacy of Monsters will recognize Eiji as Monarch’s true founder, or if the television history with Mira, Shaw and Randa will retcon the graphic novel and become the true history of Monarch.
The first two episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters are available to stream on Apple TV+. New episodes premiere Fridays, culminating with a finale on Jan. 12.