Monarch Creators Explain The Secret Of The Godzilla Monsterverse Timeline
Wait, when does all this Godzilla show actually happen?
Remember when Godzilla destroyed San Francisco? If you didn’t watch the Gareth Edwards-directed 2014 film Godzilla, there’s a chance that you won’t understand some of the references in the new Apple TV+ series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. Then again, maybe not fully grasping the connections to the cinematic Monsterverse is part of the point of this show. Unlike the MCU, the new series isn’t meant to give you homework, nor is it actually that beholden to the preexisting Monsterverse canon.
However, the timeline and setting of this series are very specific, making it a kind of sideways prequel to Kong: Skull Island, but also a mid-quel between the 2014 Godzilla movie and the two films that have followed. To sort out all the secrets of Monarch’s timeline, Inverse chatted with executive producers Chris Black and Matt Fraction. Here’s what they told us about why they’re “creating our own characters and telling our own story.”
Mild spoilers ahead for Monarch Episodes 1 & 2.
In the very first episode, “Aftermath,” we learn that former school teacher Cate Randa (Anna Sawai) is a survivor of G-Day, the moment from the 2014 Godzilla reboot when the Big G devastated San Francisco. Throughout the series, we learn that Kate and her hitherto secret brother Kentaro are descended from one of the founders of the monster-hunting organization, Monarch. Bill Randa, who was played by John Goodman in Kong: Skull Island, is now played by Anders Holm in Monarch, in extended flashbacks that exist in the 1950s. So when is this show set? In the 1950s or in 2015? The answer is, both.
Monarch timeline is rooted in 2014-2015
“There are big gaps in that cinematic timeline,” Matt Fraction tells Inverse. “There are these big gaps from what happened in the ‘50s to what happened in the ‘70s to what happened today. Which, is ultimately a pretty small [canon]. There wasn't a ton. It wasn't 600 hours of story we had to obey. We were just looking at these Legendary films, and those have big, big open spots on that timeline.”
In the first two episodes of the show — which serve as the series premiere — the audience is getting little clues as to how Monarch began, versus what it eventually became in 2015. The series jumps back and forth between its dual timelines, creating a narrative tension over 10 episodes. It allows great casting like Wyatt Russell and Kurt Russell playing the same character, Lee Shaw, at different points in this journey.
“It’s five years between Godzilla 2014 and King of the Monsters, which is 2019,” Chris Black says. “There's a lot that happens in that time span that is not stated in the movies, so it gives us a pretty wide field to play in.”
Fixing Monarch canon
For those who are wondering how the dots connect between this show and the newer movies, like 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, one of the goals of Monarch is to kind of rehabilitate the eponymous organization. Is this a wholesome group of monster nerds? Or an unscrupulous clandestine government group with unchecked power? In the 1950s, Monarch scans like a cute nonprofit start-up with Lee, Bill, and Keiko (Mari Yamamoto), but in the “present day,” it’s more like Section 31 from Star Trek, complete with ruthless field agents.
“A newcomer to all of this will be in the exact same position our characters are,” Fraction explains. “But that was the journey of the show. There's such a marked difference in Monarch as an organization between Godzilla 2015 and King of the Monsters , when there are sirens going off and people are evacuating to Titan Bunkers and Monarch guys are helping everybody. They went from hiding in the shadows and being invisible and anonymous and denying their existence to being the people you look for on the street for help when this stuff happens.”
To be clear, seeing the organization make this “pivot” over time isn’t just about making sense of the existing movies. In a way, Black and Fraction think that this series could be its own thing and that you don’t have to have seen any of the other Monsterverse movies at all. As cool as it is to make connections between the other movies, the heart of this series isn’t the monster Easter eggs, it’s the new cast of characters.
“We got to tell [Monarch’s] story and to tell a story about characters learning how it all happened,” Fraction says. “You don’t need to do homework.”