Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Why Does the Apple TV Plus Godzilla Series Look So Good? – IGN


Last week, Apple TV+ released the first trailer for Monarch: Legacy of the Monsters, which continues the shared universe story that began in 2014’s Godzilla. While the teaser itself is only a little north of 70 seconds, we get a decent enough glimpse of our cast of characters as well as a good look at the King of Monsters himself — Godzilla — and he looks great. We’re gonna dive into why Apple TV+ was the only place where this show could have happened, but first let’s talk about the ground the series itself will cover.

Monarch: Legacy of the Monsters will follow two sibling survivors of the kaiju attack on San Francisco (from the climax of the 2014 film) as they try to uncover the secrets of Monarch, the multi-government agency formed to study and hunt what they call massive unidentified terrestrial organisms (MUTOs), and how their family is connected to it. During their hunt, the siblings come across retired Army vet Lee Shaw. Monarch is displeased with Shaw, presumably because Shaw saw something he shouldn’t have and got chatty — but that last bit remains to be seen. One final tidbit that we are sure of is that Kurt Russell and his real-life son Wyatt will be playing Shaw at different points of the timeline, and that the series will span three generations.

So, we’ve got three generations involved — the siblings have a father who is also tied to all of this, but the series’ official synopsis doesn’t give any further explanation — and two time periods to depict, along with several upscale government facilities and at least one kaiju. That costs a lot of money to depict. At least it does if you do it well, and if there’s one thing we know about the Apple TV+ track record, it’s that they’ll do it well.

But how can a streaming service afford to pull out all the stops on something as big and bold as Godzilla? Apple didn’t become Apple by throwing money any which way, so how could taking on what will ultimately be a wildly expensive series — even with the help of Legendary TV — be the right move for the platform?

Because Oscars (and Emmys) sell product.

After CODA became the first streaming title to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Apple’s portfolio soared. The company would see its revenue rise to a mind-boggling $19.8 billion the quarter after the win (up 17% from previous numbers). Those record-breaking numbers could also be attributed to the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Care, and the company’s iCloud services, but CODA’s success at the Oscars can be directly linked to the 25% increase in Apple TV+ subscribers that the streamer enjoyed afterward. (What were their subscriber numbers previously? We don’t know! Streaming is broken.)

The bottom line is that Apple TV+ has always been a value-add service used to support the rest of its portfolio rather than a traditional business division. If it were strictly about making money as a division, Apple would have given CODA a wide release theatrical run (where the feel-good story with incredible critical buzz would have undoubtedly made bank). Instead, they took the $25 million they spent on the film and dropped it on Apple TV+ with a limited theatrical run that was just big enough to qualify it for Oscar contention. No fanfare, no spectacle, just a price tag big enough to break Sundance acquisition records and a $10 million Oscar campaign.

I know you weren’t clicking on a Godzilla column to hear me babble about a girl singing her way through her struggles, but I promise the points are related.

It all boils down to prestige, and that’s been the case for Apple TV+ from the very beginning. While the Netflix’s of the world are constantly throwing everything they can at a wall to see what sticks, Apple TV+ has always been about quality over quantity.

“We don’t make purely financial decisions about content,” Apple CEO Tim Cook noted in the company’s Q1 earnings call in 2022. “We try to find great content that has a reason for being.”

Earnings calls are notoriously filled with CEOs telling investors exactly what they want to hear, but Apple TV+ has been true to Cook’s above mission statement from the beginning. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure as heck buys the freedom to throw more money at anything that you think will add value to your ever-growing demographic of brand loyalists.

Speaking of brands! Godzilla won’t be the first giant creature we’ve seen in intricate detail on TV. HBO’s Game of Thrones was around for some time! But episodes cost around $15 million each by the end of its run, while its current spinoff, House of the Dragon, costs around $20 million per episode. Warner Bros. Discovery can comfortably justify this as one of the larger platforms and with the viewership across both their streaming service, Max, and linear cable channel, HBO (the one thing they have that Apple does not). We have no confirmation of what the cost of Monarch: Legacy of the Monsters will be — or how often we’ll see Godzilla or other kaiju — but we can assume that Apple and Legendary each put in quite the investment to get the King of Monsters looking just right. (Those Russell boys probably cost a pretty penny too.)

The inside baseball of it all aside, the series’ brief trailer has me incredibly hyped for Legacy of Monsters. Given the long-form nature of television, the show also has strong potential to solve the long-standing Legendary Monsterverse issue of the human characters being largely inconsequential. Not you, John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, you’re perfect. (As a matter of fact, I think it’s time for all of us to go re-watch Kong: Skull Island.)

You’ll be able to catch the premiere of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters on November 17.



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