Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Max Borenstein ’03:
Godzilla's heart of darkness

Back in junior high school English class, we learned that literature always revolves around three basic conflicts: man vs. man, man vs. himself, or man vs. nature.

Now, here’s Yale English major Max Borenstein ’03 to teach us about a fourth smackdown: man vs. Godzilla, in which the giant lizard embodies all of the above, more or less.

Borenstein is the screenwriter for the new 3-D/IMAX Godzilla, which stars Bryan Cranston and opens in theaters on May 16.

“How do you write the 31st Godzilla movie?” a Wall Street Journal interviewer asks. “How do you update a story in which humanity yet again encounters the Beast from the East for the first time?”

Borenstein’s answer: Godzilla “represents a power beyond our control. That’s how we jumped to the idea of natural disasters that are sort of exacerbated by our own activity.”

“Whenever we become arrogant and believe we are in control of the world around us through our technology,” he adds in an interview with Geeks of Doom, “that force reminds us of our powerlessness.”

A Hollywood hopeful since childhood, Borenstein cold-called the office of Oliver Stone ’68 at age 13 to ask for an internship. (They said yes, then no after discovering his age, he recounts.) He made his first feature film as a Yale senior: Swordswallowers and Thin Men (its title invoking another classic literary theme, man vs. Bob Dylan) starred fellow Yalies, including Zoe Kazan ’05.

When Legendary Pictures (of Dark Knight fame) tapped Borenstein to write Godzilla, he and director Gareth Edwards “resolved to create a ‘serious,’ character-driven Godzilla film in the spirit of very first one,” the Journal says.

That first one, released nine years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reflected Japan’s horror at the destruction wrought by nuclear weapons. The new film, just three years after the Fukushima meltdown, begins with a nuclear power accident.

“We wanted it to be grounded and realistic,” Borenstein tells the Journal—“once you accept the premise that a 350-foot lizard has emerged from the ocean.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Max Borenstein, Godzilla, movies, Zoe Kazan
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