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Out of a thousand young men on that ship, I was the only survivor. They told my family she was sunk in battle, but I know what I saw; it had no conscience, no reasoning, just destroy.
The Ion Dragon is a Titan that was first alluded to in the 2017 Monsterverse film Kong: Skull Island, and later appeared in the 2023 Apple TV+ television series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, beginning with its second episode "Departure". It is the culprit of the USS Lawton's destruction.
The Ion Dragon's full name goes unspoken in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters; Bill Randa and Lee Shaw simply call it a dragon in episode 2, while Randa calls it the Lawton dragon in episode 8. The full name was provided by series co-creator and episode writer Chris Black and visual effects supervisor Sean Konrad in interviews with Newsweek published the day the episode aired.
The script for the Monarch: Legacy of Monsters episode "Departure" by Chris Black included only a few mandates for the Ion Dragon: it had to look like a dragon, emit nacre, and be large enough to sink and carry a destroyer. Following the "rule of Jaws", as episode director Matt Shakman put it, Bill Randa and Keiko Miura find increasingly ominous sights aboard the USS Lawton; then, when the monster attacks, its form is gradually revealed.
Initial bird-like designs by artists at MPC, based on species from the Philippines, were deemed insufficiently frightening. The team pivoted towards a creature that would look out of place in a jungle, inspired by deep sea life as the USS Lawton would have encountered it at sea, with an anglerfish-like mouth providing a breakthrough. They sought avoid to typical dragon design elements like "neck frills, long necks, and bulky bodies." Its body was intended to resemble a gargoyle, with wings like flying fish. Raptors and sharks were other influences.
Weta created the Ion Dragon's CG model, with tests of its flight cycle leading to tweaks in its wingspan and leg length to make it more convincing. The model included a facial rig allowing it to express "rage, hunger, and [...] inquisitiveness." The company was also responsible for all of the monster's animation in its debut episode.
The Ion Dragon resembles a quadrupedal wyvern with piscine features. It has a wide, fish-like head with two bovine-like horns behind its reptilian eyes, two hooked appendages facing downwards on its top lip, and exposed teeth that point straight. Its body is covered in shiny black scales, and gills adorn its neck. It has two dark red wings that resemble the fins of a flying fish and four-fingered hands that are positioned at the end of the arm part of the wing. The body is long and skinny, and the hindlimbs are much shorter and stubbier than the forelimbs. The end of the tail is covered by forward-facing needle-like spines, terminating in a four-pronged pincer-like claw. In episode 10 of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, its left horn appears chipped.
In 1943, the Ion Dragon responded to a collision with a much larger destroyer by sinking it and dragging it thousands of miles west to the Philippines, killing all but one of the crew in the process. It encased many of the crew in nacre for unknown purposes; in an interview, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters visual effects supervisor Sean Konrad offered, "[M]aybe this was a nest, maybe this was a resting spot, maybe this was something that facilitated a phase in its physiology, maybe it's storing the bodies to consume at a different time." It made multiple attempts to kill Bill Randa, Keiko Miura, and Lee Shaw once finding them inside the USS Lawton in 1952, but broke off its pursuit once they reached the forest surrounding the ship. A decade later, in 1962, it attacked Shaw's exploration party in Axis Mundi, killing at least one member before flying away.
In the mid-2010s, the Ion Dragon attempted to kill Shaw again in Axis Mundi while he tried to reconnect the Gamma Ray Simulator. When Godzilla arrived, it redirected its hostility to the larger Titan and kept up its assault even after it became clear that it was no match for him.
- Kong: Skull Island (2017) [mentioned indirectly]
- Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (TV 2023-2024) [episodes 2, 9-10]
When Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard interrogated Monarch agent Bill Randa after he and his soldiers were attacked by Kong, Randa recalled how he was the only survivor of the USS Lawton after it was attacked by a giant monster in 1943. He described the monster as having "no conscience, no reasoning, just destroy."
The Ion Dragon lived in the Philippines for centuries, commonly flying over a specific migration path. In 1943, the dragon sank the USS Lawton 200 miles west of Hawaii, killed and encased all aboard but Bill Randa in nacre, and dragged the ship back to the Philippines. In 1952, Dr. Keiko Miura followed a radiation trail to the Philippines, escorted by Lieutenant Lee Shaw, and there met Randa, who told them of the dragon and his efforts to track it; skeptical, Shaw left the two behind. Following myths that laid out the dragon's migration path and its correlation to Miura's radiation data, the duo found the USS Lawton. Miura and Randa explored inside the ship, but decided to turn back upon finding Randa's preserved crewmates and fresh nacre. The dragon attacked shortly thereafter, smashing through the ship and trapping Bill under debris. Shaw returned just in time to help Randa free, and all three escaped through a hole in the wall just before the ship toppled over. The Ion Dragon then burst through the Lawton and chased the group to the edge of the clearing where the ship rested, giving up once they reached the forest. Shaw, Randa, and Miura then watched as the Ion Dragon flew and perched atop the ship, letting out a roar.
In 1962, Monarch organized an expedition into Axis Mundi, named Operation Hourglass, using an entrance located in the U.S. state of Kansas. In order to stabilize the entrance, a Gamma Ray Simulator was set up to lure a Titan. The simulator successfully attracted the Ion Dragon, which moved to pass through the portal until the simulator was turned off. This caused the Titan to lose interest and return to Axis Mundi, followed by a team which included Lee. The team was subsequently trapped in Axis Mundi as the portal imploded for unknown reasons. As they attempted to get an evacuation from the surface, the Ion Dragon attacked them, eating at least one member of the group before flying through the portal.
In 2015, Shaw, Keiko, Cate Randa, and May Olowe-Hewitt attempted to escape Axis Mundi using the pod from Operation Hourglass and its Gamma Ray Simulator to lure a Titan from the surface through a portal to stabilize it. Upon the Simulator's activation, it instead lured the nearby Ion Dragon, who attempted to grab the Simulator. Another Titan was attracted by the Simulator and began moving through the portal, but one of the Ion Dragon's flybys disconnected the pod from the Gamma Ray Simulator, which caused the approaching Titan to lose interest. Shaw left the pod and reconnected the simulator as the dragon landed and roared at Lee. Godzilla emerged from the portal and responded with his own roar. The Ion Dragon was quick to attack Godzilla, but found itself overwhelmed by the larger Titan; Godzilla tore off one of its wings before throwing the Ion Dragon into the portal, leaving its fate unknown.
The Ion Dragon is capable of flight, leaving a glowing trail of ionized radiation while doing so. It was fast enough to outmaneuver Godzilla during their battle.
The Ion Dragon is capable of tearing through steel with its claws, as seen when it attempted to kill Bill Randa, Keiko Randa, and Lee Shaw when they were within the USS Lawton. It later burst through the ship's side with its wings and was responsible for sinking it, suggesting it had the strength to lift it from the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines despite its smaller size in comparison to the Lawton. During its battle with Godzilla, the Ion Dragon drew blood by biting him; at the same time, it grappled him using its hands, feet, and tail spikes, although he easily broke this hold by tearing off one of its tail spikes.
During its assault on Godzilla, the Ion Dragon was thrown into a mountain by the larger Titan, but quickly recovered and continued attacking. It also withstood a blast of Godzilla's atomic breath.
The Ion Dragon can spray nacre from its mouth, which is capable of trapping and preserving smaller organisms. It used this ability to surprise Godzilla, causing him to briefly stop charging his atomic breath.
While talking about the fate of the USS Lawton in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, Bill Randa mentions that he and the rest of the crew initially thought they had collided with a Japanese submarine, indicating that the Ion Dragon is able to swim.
The Ion Dragon was easily overpowered by Godzilla, who burned it with his atomic breath and tore off its wing and one of its tail spikes.
In episode 10 of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the Ion Dragon's roar before being slammed into the ground by Godzilla's atomic breath is taken from sound effects of the Mighty Eagle from Angry Birds.
- Main article: Ion Dragon/Gallery.
- Monarch: Legacy of Monsters visual effects supervisor Sean Konrad cast some doubt on whether the Ion Dragon sank the USS Lawton, saying, "We find a creature inside the hull of the ship, but it's potentially too small to have dragged it to the middle of the jungle by itself, so is this the child of something larger, did it stumble on the ship and use it as a nest, or did it fall through one of the portal networks that we know exist in the canon? Or is there some other possibility that isn't immediately evident?" However, he treated the monster as the ship's slayer elsewhere in the same interview.
- When asked by USA TODAY, young Lee Shaw actor Wyatt Russell named the Ion Dragon as his favorite Titan of the show.
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