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“Alien: Romulus” director teases new movie’s mix of familiar designs and all-new visuals

Fede Álvarez breaks down the sci-fi film's first trailer and teases new Xenomorphs.

Fede Álvarez is going back to the beginning with Alien: Romulus. But the director’s upcoming Xenomorph movie, which just released its first trailer, also isn’t afraid to play around with familiar formulas.

The Alien: Romulus trailer begins by echoing the opening sequence of Ridley Scott’s original 1979 Alien film, with the camera slowly panning through the interiors of a spaceship. It looks somewhat similar to the original Nostromo, and Alvarez tells EW that was intentional. After all, Weyland-Yutani is sort of the Acme Corporation of the Alien universe: Most of the human technology we see starts with the same company.

“I knew that I wanted to go back to the roots, to the era of the first film, and so that indicates much of the design right away,” Alvarez says. “This company makes a certain type of hallway, a certain type of monitor, a certain type of engine, and if you live in this universe, you'll re-encounter a lot of these designs. So production designer Naaman Marshall and I took a lot of care to make sure we were super faithful to the style of the first film. This takes place a few years later, but in the world of Alien, that's not too much later, really.”

The characters of Alien: Romulus also harken back to the original. Scott’s Alien remains influential for depicting its astronauts not as heroic scientist-engineers but as “truckers in space.” Expect a similar vibe here, though with a different perspective.

<p>Courtesy of 20th Century Studios</p>

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

“The characters are very blue collar, like the best versions of these movies, but they’re way younger than before,” Alvarez says. “I remember watching the extended cut of Aliens, where you can see a bunch of kids running around the corridors of one of the colonies and go, ‘wow, what it would it be like for those kids when they turned 20? Growing up in a place with no future? Would they want to stay there and do what their parents did, or leave that place?’ That’s a reality that most people in our world face who grow up in a small town or a small country. That was the spirit in which we approached these characters and their story.”

The biggest name in the cast of young actors is probably Cailee Spaeny, who’s set to have a big 2024. Following her starring role in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla last year, Spaeny is now reuniting with her Devs director Alex Garland on the buzzy Civil War, and the Alien: Romulus trailer gives her a very heroic close-up where she almost resembles original franchise star Sigourney Weaver.

<p>Courtesy of 20th Century Studios</p> Cailee Spaeny as Rain Carradine in 'Alien: Romulus.'

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Cailee Spaeny as Rain Carradine in 'Alien: Romulus.'

“I always knew it was going to be her. I almost wrote the movie for her,” says Alvarez, who pins up photos of different people and actors for inspiration while writing his scripts. “In a way, she's the audience. That's the big difference it makes when you bring in younger characters in their early 20s. It's not that the audience is that age necessarily, but we are as inexperienced as they are when it comes to dealing with the situation that they're in.”

It’s already clear in the first trailer for Alien: Romulus that Spaeny’s work will be cut out for her. Though we don’t get a clear view of the new movie’s take on the Xenomorph, we do get wonderful glimpses of a creature scurrying across the floor and jumping onto someone’s face. Although Alvarez and the rest of the Alien: Romulus team are keeping their full Xenomorphs under wraps for now, rest assured they should look familiar to fans of James Cameron’s Aliens.

<p>Courtesy of 20th Century Studios</p>

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

“We brought back the team that worked on Aliens, the Stan Winston team,” Alvarez says. “They were all guys in their early 20s back then, and if you look at some behind-the-scenes footage, you’ll see the three of them sitting there talking about how they built the Alien Queen. They have all these big companies of their own now because they’ve become masters of their craft, but I went out of my way to make sure I got each one. Instead of giving one of them everything, we hired each one of them to work on very specific creatures.”

Alvarez elaborates, “We’ve got puppeteering, animatronics, all the old-school techniques. We had the right guys because they worked on the originals. So, for some creatures, we needed those guys to nail the look and make them exactly as you’ve seen them in the past. But then when we needed something new, we had those guys as well, so that we made sure we’re faithful to the spirit of the original movies.”

Eagle-eyed viewers may catch something else new about the Alien: Romulus trailer. Both Alien and Aliens begin with the main characters awakening from suspended animation, stretching their legs as they pull themselves out of their sleeping pods. But in Alien: Romulus, we see one of the pods drenched in blood. This time, the violence is coming sooner than viewers or characters might expect.

“Without spoiling too much, it is a glimpse of a scene that plays differently than other movies — and not just Alien movies,” Alvarez says when asked about this image. “It's always great when you can do something in a movie, and you realize while shooting it, ‘Well, this has never been seen before in the history of humanity.’ I’ve dealt with that a few times in my movies, and it's always great to be shooting it, and you look to the left and see the boom mic guy going, ‘What's happening here??’”

Alien: Romulus hits theaters on Aug. 16, 2024. Check out the first trailer above, and the first poster below.

<p>20th Century Studios</p>

20th Century Studios

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