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How Apple brought Godzilla to the small screen in ‘Monarch’

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Godzilla hits the small screen in Apple’s “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.”

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Now streaming, the series follows teacher Cate (Anna Sawai), as she goes to Tokyo and discovered that her dead father Hiroshi (Takeihiro Hira) had a secret second family, and she’s got an adult brother she never knew about, Kentaro (Ren Watabe). Their dad was also involved with Monarch, a secret organization built around hunting monsters. 

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“We can’t really change the design [of Godzilla], because our show takes place between ‘Godzilla 2014’ and [the 2019 movie] ‘Godzilla: The King of Monsters,” VFX supervisor Sean Konrad told The Post. 

“So the way he looks is canonized in a certain way. That being said, we have shots where we got closer to his body than we’ve ever gotten,” Konrad explained. “A great example is the dorsal fins – we have a shot where we got up real close up, intimate with them, and [see] like bits of dirt that have gotten stuck in the gaps. Things like that, to make it feel more real.” 

Godzilla in “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.”
Courtesy of Apple

As the story unfolds, the sibling’s search for answers leads them to an Army officer named Lee Shaw – with Kurt Russell playing him in the present day, and Kurt’s son, Wyatt Russell, playing him in flashbacks to the ‘50s that show the origins of Monarch, as Lee works with Japanese monster researcher Keiko (Mari Yamamoto), and Bill Randa (Anders Holm, playing a young version of the character first played by John Goodman in “Kong: Skull Island”).

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Although the series is set between the events of two recent “Godzilla” films, viewers don’t need to have seen them to follow “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.” 

Anna Sawai and Ren Wantabe as newly discovered siblings looking into their dad’s secrets.
Courtesy of Apple
Wyatt Russell as Lee, a younger version of the character played by his real dad, Kurt Russell.
Courtesy of Apple
Kurt Russell as an older version of Lee, played as a younger man by his real life son.
Courtesy of Apple

“The undergirding philosophy of a lot of the creature design in the Legendary universe is, you look at the natural world for something interesting, and you embellish on that and create deviations that feel alien and strange,” Konrad revealed. “But you ground it in something real.”

“We really want it to feel connected to real world things, and feel plausible in some way, but fantastical as well,” said Konrad, who also worked on the 2014 and 2019 “Godzilla” movies, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” 

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He explained that to film sequences with the monsters, they didn’t put a man in a suit and add in effects after. “A lot of times, our monsters are so big that we can’t get a real world reference,” he said. 

Godzilla is too big to be filmed with a man in a suit, VFX supervisor Sean Konrad said.
Courtesy of Apple
Wyatt Russell, Mari Yamamoto, and Anders Holm in the flasbhack ’50s scenes, seeing a monster.
Courtesy of Apple
A giant spider monster in “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.”
Courtesy of Apple

“But of course, whenever you can give somebody an eyeline, that’s important to making something feel real. We storyboard and show the actors. And if we can use a tennis ball on a stick to show them, ‘This is where Godzilla will be, relative to your point of view,’ that comes in handy. If there’s something grabbing onto people, we have the stunt team put a rig to make sure that portion of the person is moving with tension and impact.” 

He said the original “Godzilla” movies are always at the top of their mind, creatively. 

“A lot of this has been well-tread territories from the features, but there’s always things that are unique. Like there’s a bunch of really challenging stuff later in the series about how he moves. To communicate scale, it’s not that [the monsters] are slow, it’s that they have a lot of momentum. It takes time to get up to speed, and time to stop. [Godzilla’s] tail doesn’t just swing and stop immediately, it has to land, and then it impacts the ground, and dust gets kicked up.” 

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