Everything you need to know about Alien: Romulus

Alien: Romulus is the latest chapter in the classic Alien saga. It'll soon be time to venture into the cosmos again and confront what is possibly the most terrifying monster ever put to celluloid. The film promises a rollercoaster ride of big-screen suspense and horror, so here's everything we know so far.

What is the story of Alien: Romulus?

Largely unknown at the time of writing. All we do know is a deep-space crew docks with a seemingly deserted space station and comes face-to-face with the xenomorph, the parasitic humanoid alien with acid for blood that is virtually indestructible. 

Image of Alien: Romulus movie poster

Where is Alien: Romulus set in the wider Alien saga?

This is the critical question. Alien: Romulus is set in the 57-year gap between Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott, and Aliens (1986), directed by James Cameron. This also places the movie before the events of Alien 3 (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997), but after the events of the Scott-directed prequel films Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017).

Fans will remember this as the time in which Nostromo survivor Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) was cast adrift in deep space hypersleep after the alien slaughtered her crew, but not before said crew realised they were pawns in a wider scheme by the company Weyland-Utani. The company wanted to bring the alien back to Earth as a biological weapon and had placed insurgent android Ash (Ian Holm) on board the Nostromo to ensure the scheme's success.

It remains to be seen if the Alien: Romulus ensemble will be used as bait to snare the creature after the original plan went awry. It's also unclear at this stage whether the movie will owe more of an aesthetic debt to Alien, which was originally pitched as a haunted house movie in space, or Aliens, which was essentially a war movie in space.

Judging from the Alien: Romulus trailer it owes more of a debt to Scott's original masterpiece. The lighting is artfully low-key, there are prowling shots around amber-lighted corridors and there's a distinct biomechanical look to the production design, which owes itself to the original Alien designer H.R. Giger.

This makes absolute sense: in an interview with Games Radar, Alvarez confirmed the movie takes place "20 years after [Alien]". 

Alvarez further elaborated: "So the characters of this movie and the world are very blue-collar. The technology is still very low-tech and analog. And, look, I’m a kid from the ‘80s. Any monitor with some VHS tracking issues puts a lot of joy in my heart."

Who stars in Alien: Romulus?

Alien: Romulus stars Cailee Spaeney who stunned with her recent performance in Priscilla (2023), in which she played Priscilla Presley, wife of Elvis. More recently she appeared in Alex Garland's hard-hitting American allegory Civil War. The talented cast of Alien: Romulus also includes Rye Lane star David Jonsson, Shadow and Bone's Archie Renaux and Madame Web's Isabela Merced.

Who directs Alien: Romulus?

Alien: Romulus is directed by Fede Alvarez who is skilled with both gore and suspense. His two Evil Dead reboots from 2013 and 2023 (the first of which Alvarez directed) substituted original director Sam Raimi's dark humor for a much more grueling and punishingly violent aesthetic. Alvarez's skill with tension is best demonstrated in the Don't Breathe films from 2016 and 2018, which utilised silence as an active component of dread and impending danger.

The Alien films have always vacillated between gruesomeness and tension-building. One need only look at Scott's original film: the notorious chest-burster scene is a marvel of body horror, but is soon replaced by the omnipresent suggestion of the fully-grown alien lurking somewhere in the Nostromo's cooling ducts. Alvarez should therefore be a good fit for the material, and he's a confessed fan of the franchise.

Excitingly, Alvarez has imported the practical effects crew from James Cameron's Aliens, which has long been considered an exemplar of creature design, particularly with the eerie reveal of the alien Queen in the final act. He told The Hollywood Reporter: "For the creatures, we brought in all the guys from Aliens. They were in their early twenties when they made Aliens, and they were a part of Stan Winston’s [special effects] team. And now we had them at the top of their game.

"They have their own shops, and so we brought them all together to work on all the creatures, because we went with all animatronics and puppets at every level. I even got the chance to be under the table with them, puppeteering all these animatronics... When it comes to face-to-face encounters and moments with creatures, nothing beats the real thing."

Have Ridley Scott and James Cameron responded to Alien: Romulus?

Scott (who produces Alien: Romulus) has seen the film. Alvarez recalls the moment (via The Hollywood Reporter) when Scott gave his verdict: "Everyone gave me the heads-up [that] Ridley is really tough. He’s really tough, particularly if you have something to do with his movies.

"[Scott] walks into the room and he did say, ‘Fede, what can I say? It’s f***** great.’”

As for James Cameron, Alvarez told Screen Rant: "He’s now seen the movie and loved it." Alvarez adds: "It’s also fascinating because [Cameron and Scott’s] notes and comments are completely different. They wouldn’t repeat a note. Whatever Ridley said, Cameron said something different. They were all super smart comments, notes and thoughts on the film and the filmmaking, et cetera, but both of them have completely different approaches. So the fantastic part of being able to make this film is to have the chance to work with them."

When is Alien: Romulus released?

You can catch Alien: Romulus at Cineworld from August 16th. Too far away? Click on the link below the trailer and check out 2024's list of upcoming horror movies.