Monarch: Legacy of Monsters may owe its greatest debt not to Toho, nor even the previous entries in the Monster-Verse, such as Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island. No, the most important movie for the new show from Apple TV+ is Solider. Yes, Solider, the 1998 sci-flick directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.
Because in Soldier, Kurt Russell played the same character as his son Wyatt, as the latter portrays the 11-year-old version of the lifelong warrior Todd 3465. The duo repeat that feat in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters by playing Lee Shaw at two points in the man’s life. The elder Russell plays Shaw in the present, as part of the research group Monarch, dealing with the revelation of monsters in 2014’s Godzilla. The younger Russell plays Shaw in the 1950s, connecting the series to the golden age of Kaiju cinema.
Series developer Matt Fraction, best known for his comic book work on series such as Hawkeye and The Immortal Iron Fist, knows how lucky he is to get the Russells together on Monarch. “My recollection is that they had been offered father/son parts a lot, and that hadn’t interested them,” Fraction recently told Den of Geek. “But the idea of the two of them as actors working to build the same character across the span of time spoke to them as actors. It was a challenge.”
Although Wyatt has been appearing on screen since popping up as a baby on 1987’s Overboard, alongside his father Kurt and mother Goldie Hawn, his stock has risen dramatically in recent years. Wyatt has earned acclaim for performances in the cult series Lodge 49, the World War II horror film Overlord, and the MCU show The Falcon and the Winter Solider. Part of this success comes from Wyatt’s ability to capture his father’s easy-going swagger, the charismatic masculinity that made Kurt a standout in films such as Tombstone, Big Trouble in Little China, and more recently Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
In fact, Kurt brought some of that experience to the Monarch set. “He would regale us with stories about working with these iconic directors like Tarantino, like Carpenter,” recalls executive producer Andy Goddard, but he would also carry the weight of those performances. “I just think he brings that with him, and it complemented the storytelling. It was the sort of the seesaw balance between what Kurt brought to the show from all his iconic roles, allied together with this young, vibrant and exciting cast.”
That connection gives weight to both Russells’ portrayal of Shaw, with Wyatt bringing the energy and Kurt bringing the weight of the past.
In particular, Kurt brought echoes of perhaps his greatest role, R.J. McReady, the doomed helicopter pilot from The Thing. “One chapter of the odyssey our characters go on is on an ice glacier,” Goddard points out. “So there were vapor trails of John Carpenter’s The Thing in the air as we were doing it.” As Goddard and Fraction explained the point of the glacier episode to Russell, the actor said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, go to go to the middle of the glacier and wait for the science guys to figure it out? I’ve done that before! It doesn’t work out too well.”
“Big, big McCready energy,” quips Goddard, pointing out the kind of vibes that no one but Wyatt can match.