I’m not sure what to think about this, so I’m asking all of you.
To begin, let’s base this discussion on two facts. First, with the 2019 acquisition of Fox, Disney became the owners of the long-running Alien sci-fi franchise. Second, in 2012 Ridley Scott, who created the original masterpiece that was Alien (1979), decided to leap back in after five other directors had a go at some portion of the story. This effectively scuttled the planned Alien movie we all deserved, which would have been a sequel to Aliens directed by Neill Blomkamp and would have ignored the movies which followed Aliens. This story would have reunited Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Hicks (Michael Biehn), and probably would have been awesome.
Instead, what we got was Sigourney Weaver permanently bowing out from the franchise, and two prequels from Scott, which were anything but awesome. Though nostalgia and eternal optimism caused die-hard fans to make Prometheus (2012) a technical box office hit ($130M budget against a $403M take), we’d learned our lesson by the time Alien: Covenant came around in 2017. It was considered a disappointment by Hollywood standards, bringing in less than half the ticket sales as its predecessor. Personally, I wished Scott would have kept his hands to himself.
Now, with this in mind, we have the news I’m about to share.
Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe director Fede Álvarez is directing the next installment in the Alien franchise and the first Alien film released by Disney. Filming on what is currently being called Alien: Romulus wrapped production in April, and barring any unforeseen issues, is set for release on August 16, 2024. For better or worse, Scott is producing, but Álvarez is co-writing the script with Rodo Sayagues (Evil Dead), so there’s that.
Alien: Romulus is said to be unconnected to the previous films, though IMDB’s trivia page states “Alien: Romulus reportedly takes place between the events of Alien and Aliens.” A fan of the iconic franchise himself, Álvarez had pitched a film idea to Scott several years ago in a casual conversation. This eventually led to Scott calling Álvarez last year to see if he was still interested in proceeding, which he clearly was. Twentieth Century then picked up Alien: Romulus due to the strength of Álvarez’s pitch, as it was a “really good story with a bunch of characters you haven’t seen before,” according to 20th Century’s Steve Asbell.
So, what do we know about the film so far? A few things for sure, along with a few guesses.
Alien: Romulus cast
The cast for sure includes a female lead in the form of Cailee Spaeny (The Craft: Legacy, Pacific Rim Uprising) along with Isabela Merced (Transformers: The Last Knight), David Jonsson (Deep State), Archie Renaux (Morbius), Spike Fearn (The Batman) and Aileen Wu (Rendezvous). What all these actors have in common is their age, which is in their twenties. This jives with a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter which stated,
Plot details are being kept in a cryochamber, but as opposed to the other movies which focused on adults in corporate, militaristic and scientific roles, this now-ninth installment of the franchise will focus on a group of young people.
As far as the plot goes, the project is described as “an original standalone feature,” but details are very scarce. Twentieth Century Studios released an official synopsis which says a whole lot of nothing:
In this ninth entry in the immensely popular and enduring film series, a group of young people on a distant world find themselves in a confrontation with the most terrifying life form in the universe.
Though many outlets are referring to the film as Alien: Romulus, 20th Century is quick to point out that officially the film is untitled, in spite of concept artwork also circulating with that name.
Romulus and his brother nursing from a female wolf
So, what could we extrapolate from the title, if Alien: Romulus is actually it? Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome’s oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus and his contemporaries. But a specific myth surrounding Romulus could be significant given the initial art for the movie, which is that Romulus and his brother were said to have been nursed by a female wolf after having been abandoned to die as infants. In some versions of the myth Romulus took in the traits of fearless and cunning hunter/leader from the she-wolf.
The concept movie poster shows a Xenomorph (a queen?) reaching down to a human baby, who in turn is reaching back to it fearlessly. As the infant Romulus was saved from death by the nurturing of a female wolf, a creature that would have normally killed him, thus imbuing him with the qualities of the wolf, could this imply that a queen Xenomorph likewise “adopts” a human baby? And if so, where would the implications of this lead?
Alien: Romulus concept teaser poster by Nuno Sarnadas
While we already know the movie won’t feature any familiar faces in terms of actors, a behind-the-scenes image from Alien: Romulus production, shared by Álvarez when production wrapped in April, teases that Facehuggers will appear, in addition to a familiar spaceship design.
Though the movie doesn’t yet have an age rating, Álvarez’s previous films also suggest that the movie could be a gory affair, perhaps even exceeding the violence present in Scott’s entries. Álvarez’s Alien having a Facehugger prop also hints at the use of practical effects for the Xenomorph and its life cycle stages in the film. Coupling this with the new Alien movie’s synopsis it appears Álvarez could be going back to the franchise’s roots with his project. This means the new installment could feel more like the tense and isolating first film, instead of the action-packed thrill ride of some sequels.
So, this is everything we know and can guess as it pertains to Disney’s latest princess. Though I’ve loved much of the Alien storyline and would certainly welcome another well-done chapter, I literally clenched up at those last two movies Scott inflicted on us. So, what do you think about the news of Alien: Romulus?