Sunday, March 17, 2024

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters - TV-series Review

Warning, spoilers ahead. 

If posters on the wall are a sign of fandom, Godzilla is second only to my children in this household. I probably wouldn't call myself a hardcore fan (whatever that is), but I am definitely a big fan of the franchise and I curse the fact that most movies before 2010 are oddly difficult to get hold of here in Sweden in particular. 

And while far from every Godzilla movie is great or maybe even good, I wasn't truly disappointed by a Godzilla movie until the Gareth Edwards movie Godzilla that was released in 2014. That was the first time I watched a movie where I felt the creators had fundamentally misunderstood the reason fans like me return to watch Godzilla stomp, and get stomped.

I've enjoyed some fringe-picks before - the 1998 Roland Emmerich movie Godzilla was very entertaining and who can hate the cute baby Godzilla from Son of Godzilla (1967)? And every Godzilla movie has to find a balance between what you're there to see - big ass monsters punching, kicking and headbutting each other - with the filler stuff - humans and their reactions to big ass monsters punching, kicking and headbutting each other. No one cares about the people really, we accept them because we want to see the monsters and respect that budgets didn't allow for 90 minutes of that, back in the day.

But Godzilla 2014 completely missed the mark. The creators somehow thought that maybe we cared more about the people than the monsters, if only it was dramatic enough. Maybe they thought if we also cared about the people we'd enjoy the full 90 minutes and not the just the 10 minutes of kaiju fighting. This, in essence, is not a bad notion and Godzilla Minus One is a much better executed version of this idea (I have other thoughts on Godzilla Minus One, but that is another review for another day). But Godzilla 2014 tries so hard to make the humans interesting, they completely forget to make the kaiju interesting. And how could you even fail something like that, it's Godzilla!

And that brings me to Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. I know there are a few TV adaptations of the Godzilla world out there, and I've watched an episode here or there but nothing ever caught my interest. For some reason it didn't feel like the core idea of the Godzilla movies would translate well to the episodic nature of a TV-series. The structure of a Godzilla movie is generally very predictable, and trying to spread that out over however many episodes just means you will have some episodes that are 100% without Godzilla (or other kaiju) in it and ergo: boring.

So needless to say, my expectations for Monarch weren't particularly high and I'll be honest, the one thing that made me even watch the stuff was the fact that Kurt Russell was in it. I was hoping that maybe Kurt could make the Godzilla-less episodes at least bearable. 

The show takes place over two different time periods, and since nowadays it's apparently uncool to inform viewers on where and when they are, I more than once was confused as to which order things happened. Since the time in-between is quite far (60 years or so) you'd think it'd be obvious, but the jumps are also made some times within each time period to further confuse things. In the present time-line, we follow half-siblings Cate and Kentaro who are looking for their missing father. He seems to have something to do with an organization called Monarch who seems to have something to do with Godzilla. In the other time-line we follow Cate and Kentaro's grandparents as they set up was is to become Monarch. A common denominator here is Lee Shaw, played in the modern time-line by Kurt Russel and in the old time-line by Kurt Russel's extremely lookalike son, Wyatt Russell. Other characters correctly point out that this should make Lee Shaw close to 100 years old in present day, which he obviously doesn't seem to be anywhere close to - but it's mostly just shrugged off.

Let me try not to make the same mistake Monarch does here, by doing everything except get to the point.  This show will blue ball you for 10 hours of your life if you let it. Monarch is a showcase of how to beat around the bush and I've rarely felt my time more wasted than watching this show. It is about as filled with meaningful substance as an empty mug. I recall having similar feelings when watching the Resident Evil TV-series and yet again it amazes me to see show creators take all this brilliant lore and instead show us the same old teen-angst drama that no one on earth truly cares about.

The three main characters, Cate, Kentaro and their friend Mae, are so annoyingly bland and predictable I am at a lack for any good words to describe how frustrating it was to have to watch them do anything in this show. They were so pointless in fact, I had to google their names even after having just watched their shenanigans for hours. Their whole hunt for their father seems like it could've been cut out completely and it would've already been a much better show. Their time-line isn't entirely hopeless however or I would've probably honestly just skipped their scenes all together. Kurt Russel is always fun to watch, and some of the "evil" members of Monarch are at least not irritating.

The best parts of the show are the old-timey ones, where we see Keiko, Bill (the grandparents) and Lee Shaw hunt for kaijus and form the beginnings of what becomes Monarch. I could've easily done with just those parts and been much happier. Though I suspect I only truly enjoy these parts of the show because they are not as bad as the other ones, not because their particularly good in their own right.

After a few episodes me and my SO started feeling that watching this was more and more of a chore. With two episodes left to go I felt like I just couldn't put up with it any longer. I had to tell him he had to go on without me and leave me behind. I had absolutely zero interest in seeing what else was going to happen in this world, because I already knew it would amount to nothing.

So what about Godzilla? Yeah, he shows up. You get to see his eye or tail in a flashback here and there and he jumps out of a sand dune and rushes off in one episode. There are even some other kaijus that do basically nothing. Overall the ratio boring human relations vs cool kaiju stuff is about 1000/1. Don't bother showing up for this one.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

S.O.S Dino - Board Game

Children are famously not the best at losing, and since my children are the ones I've got to play board games with, I've come to explore a lot more co-operative board games lately. 

I barely even knew co-operative board games were a genre until a few years ago when I stumbled across the first one, having been brought up on proper home wreckers like Monopoly and Ludo. I definitely don't recommend playing them with your kids. Or anyone else for that matter.

In S.O.S Dino, you're tasked with your fellow players to save a bunch of dinosaurs, and preferably also their eggs, from Dino Apocalypse. You start in the middle and need to work your way to the edges, and as you play the board will become more and more covered with obstacles, especially Lava Tiles, that prevent you from reaching your goal. The tactic is in placing your tiles smartly, because each round you get to draw a tile from a bag and have some control in where it goes. Lava Tiles, and they make out the vast majority of the tiles, will tell you which Dinos you can move and which Lava flow to extend, but the direction is yours to control.

The box art is cute too.

If you're unlucky however you get a meteor strike or make a volcano erupt, creating further lava flows. The board quickly becomes overrun, and it's easy to paint yourself in a corner if you don't pay attention. It's quite devastating to see a dinosaur burn in a puddle of lava, and any hopes that this game wouldn't make your kids sad fly out the window. Fortunately the game only seems stressful on the outside, after having played it a few times it seems quite easy to succeed and we usually get all the dinos and eggs to safety. The challenge is definitely in level with children around the age of 4-12.

The board is made up of plenty of little pieces that need to be arranged and assembled before you start playing. But don't worry, this is no Mouse Trap where you spend more time putting things together than actually playing (or having fun). In fact, getting things in the right place is part of the fun for my kids because you sort of build up a little dino world. 

The Dino Figures that come with the game are really nice looking and could've easily been used as any toy outside of the game as well. They're brightly coloured and distinguished from each other - the colouration is part of the game mechanics since each tile prevents a certain dino from moving.

It only takes about 20 minutes to play and doesn't outstay its welcome, it keeps a good pace throughout and is easy to learn. It has a good balance between luck and tactics that fit the age it is aimed for and good production quality. S.O.S Dino isn't amazing, but it's a fun game to keep in your roster for board games to play with your kids. If you find it somewhere I recommend giving it a try.