For a Godzilla franchise that has basically established itself as a modernized, Americanized version of Toho Studio’s iconic Kaiju movies, Legendary’s Monsterverse is surprisingly inventive when it comes to the creation of gigantic monstrosities. Aside from the four primary iconic monsters of Godzilla lore, namely Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla, a major chunk of Monsterverse creatures are original additions. In addition to enriching the established Godzilla mythos, the monsters of Legendary’s shared universe, known as ‘Titans’, stand out on their own thanks to their cool, creative designs, which are a perfect amalgamation of natural world inspirations and inventive visual traits.
Legendary’s latest small-screen venture, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, has swung surprisingly hard, both narrative-wise and using a substantial budget to offer a monster spectacle of cinematic quality. The nuclear-powered Titans are integrated into the stories in a much better way than they were in the movies, obviously due to the fact that the series provides more screen time and narrative freedom. We would like to take a look at the newly introduced Titans who appeared in the series and try to appreciate the creation process.
Endopede And Endoswarmer
In the very first episode of the series, viewers were introduced to an insectoid swarm of Titans known as Endoswarmers. Armed with a tough exoskeleton, a jointed body, and a vicious-looking mandible, these comparatively diminutive Titans look like a nightmarish version of centipedes. Much like any other Titan, these are drawn to nuclear radiation, which is why the abandoned nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan became the nesting ground of the creatures, and their existence was shrouded in mystery due to government cover-ups and local superstitions. Their nesting place is discovered by OG Monarch explorers Keiko, Shaw, and Bill in 1959, whose arrival causes larval endoswarmers to hatch from eggs and attack the trio. During this incident, Keiko gets pulled inside the Hollow Earth rift by the critters, presumed dead. It’ll be discovered later that the gamma radiation emitted by the Titans will allow Keiko to pass through the rift and survive the fall, as she spent almost two months in Axis Mundi right from that point in time, which translates to more than half a century in the surface world due to time dilation.
The final form of these titans is even more vicious-looking and larger, which the larval stage creatures attain by molting their shells multiple times, much like the majority of arthropods. This adult version is known as Endopede, one of which viewers come across when Shaw and his team plan to destroy the rift in the present timeline of 2015. The adult Endopede drags Cate, May, and Shaw inside the rift almost in a déjà vu sequence as well, which results in their reunion with Keiko in Axis Mundi. Endopede and Endoswarmer act as a callback to Toho’s insectoid Kaijus, like Kamacuras, and even to the juvenile form of Destoroyah. With a circular row of teeth across the mandible, Endopede surely evokes a bit of a creature horror vibe through its appearance.
Next up, we have a Titan which resembles the exaggerated natural mutation of the real-world creatures seen in Kong: Skull Island. Brambleboar appears like a giant version of a Warthog fused with Babirusa pigs, with prop root-like structures covering the entirety of its back. Viewers meet the creature in Axis Mundi in the penultimate episode of the series, as Cate finds herself right in front of it and gets cornered—until an arrow shot by Keiko injures the Brambleboar and saves her life in the process. Aside from an ill temperament, easily intimidated demeanor, and significantly larger-than-human stature, nothing much is known of the creature through its single appearance in the series.
Creature design-wise the series’ most beautifully imaginative Titan is none other than Frost Vark. This giant, quadruped monster has a facial structure like a star-nosed mole, with bioluminescent ultra-sensory tendrils surrounding its mouth. The creature possesses a pangolin-like body structure, with armored dorsal plates covering the creature’s body and protect it from damage—probably also from the freezing temperature of the Alaskan wilderness where it was seen dwelling. The Frost Vark has a tendency to seek heat using its tendrils and has the ability to completely drain temperature from heated objects, freezing them solid in the process. In order to search for Hiroshi, the recon team consisting of Cate, Kentaro, May, Shaw, and his friend Du-Ho had unwittingly appeared in close proximity to this highly territorial Titan. The Frost Vark proceeded to destroy their plane, just like it demolished the one Hiroshi Randa was boarding as well, killing Du-Ho in the process by freezing him to death. With a timely rescue operation orchestrated by Kentaro and Monarch, the rest of the team is saved from getting annihilated by the monster.
The extreme swiftness with which the Titan can burrow deep underground and appear all of a sudden is borderline insane, given its immense size. Later in the series, Shaw and Duvall’s renegade team of former Monarch employees manage to destroy a Hollow Earth rift, sending the creature back to where it came from. The unique appearance of Frost Vark was one of the major talking points of the series, and hopefully, Monsterverse will continue to give us more visually pleasing character designs like it.
Last but not least, the Titan Ion Dragon made quite an impact in the series throughout the past and present timelines, much like Godzilla, and was the only creature in the series that was able to square off with the big G. In this case as well, the creature’s design was influenced by several real-life animals, like flying fish, angler fish, and even Aerodactyl, a Pokémon, and most importantly, Gyaos from the rival Gamera universe. Ion Dragon is also the only winged Titan to have appeared in the series, although it is smaller than the likes of other aerial behemoths like Mothra and Rodan. Despite having a smaller stature, its nacre secretion and agility make the Ion Dragon a fearsome creature.
This aggressive beast had found a place in the Philippines’ tribal folklore, as its migration pattern while emitting aurora radiation had given it a mythical status. According to Monsterverse lore, in 1943, this creature was responsible for the destruction of the military warship USS Lawton, of which Bill Randa was the sole survivor. Years later, in 1952, after a chance meeting with Shaw and Keiko in the wilderness of the Phillipines, cryptozoologist Bill discovers the wreckage of the warship that was carried by the Titan to the midst of the jungle. Confrontation with Ion Dragon will happen once again during the 1962 Project Hourglass, where in the Axis Mundi, Shaw’s expedition crew were massacred by the creature, leaving only him as the sole survivor. Finally, in the present timeline of the series in 2015, Shaw and Keiko met the creature for the last time, as it was brutally slain (?) by Godzilla and thrown across the rift.
There are several metatextual and symbolic significances that Toho has emulated with the presentation of its Kaijus for more than seventy years. Monsterverse’s modern adaptation has been inspired by it in major aspects, all the while maintaining a distinctive individuality of its own. Here’s wishing we can witness more of such inventive flair as Monsterverse continues to grow, enriching the definitive Godzilla lore and inspiring other creative minds in the process.