The Alien franchise is unique in its subject but familiar in its execution. A lot of beloved film series spawned two groundbreaking landmark titles before descending through levels of mediocrity into tragic failure. Alien shares this space with Terminator. They've attempted the same solution multiple times. Rather than make bold narrative strides, both franchises try and fail to recapture their early success. Alien: Romulus represents another attempt, but it may face the same impossible climb.

Alien: Romulus is one of many Alien projects traveling to the screen at the moment. When Disney bought 20th Century Fox in 2019, Alien was one of the IPs they intended to expand. The studio intends to drop a TV show on FX and Romulus on the big screen. The film was originally slated for Hulu, but increased faith in the brand saw it gain a theatrical release. This all-out offensive suggests one of Disney's many attempts to find a marketable franchise.

Alien: Romulus wants to be Alien



Fede Álvarez


Fede Álvarez, Rodo Sayagues


Cailee Spaeny, David Jonsson, Archie Renaux, Isabela Merced

Release Date

August 16, 2024

Alien: Romulus offers no obfuscation of its intentions. Unless every second of its teaser is a deliberate subterfuge, the seventh (ninth if you count the Aliens vs. Predator films) entry in the Alien franchise is more concerned with the past than the future. Naturally, it takes place on a derelict space station, where a handful of young space colonizers will encounter a familiar terror. Another group of unsuspecting blue-collar employees. Another surprising encounter with a facehugger. Another batch of warm bodies to quickly pick off. Alien: Romulus is set between Alien and Aliens, incorporating some of the intense action of James Cameron's sequel into the gothic horror of Ridley Scott's original. That's the pitch: combining the parts everyone likes from the two entries everyone likes into a film with modern Hollywood money. Unfortunately, Álvarez isn't the first to try this trick.

Every Alien sequel has tried

The connective tissue of the Alien franchise is the central idea of a nightmarish monster hunting down several unsuspecting humans in a spaceship. Aliens escalated the format by changing its patient, claustrophobic horror into a more desperate action blockbuster. Alien 3 took unique risks with its narrative but ultimately boiled down to another Xenomorph running amock in a prison colony. Resurrection unleashes several Xenomorphs into a larger spaceship, prompting some critics to call it reheated garbage. Prometheus feels like a departure with its deep dive into the lore, but it yields to the default state as Sean Harris' Fifield becomes a proto-Xenomorph. Alien: Covenant felt like a retreat, all but admitting in its trailer that the previous film was too great a departure for some. Each entry maintains the central element of the original film. Unfortunately, they keep the old tricks without understanding their impact.

Alien was a surprise


Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alien was lightning in a bottle. It can't be done again, no matter how many of its constituent parts a new entry borrows. A million knockoffs, sequels, and genre stablemates have tried and failed to perfectly replicate Alien. Every example failed. Alien evolved from half a dozen other failed projects. Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon devised the opening, in which the Nostromo crew awakens early from stasis, as part of a different script. He imagined a World War II movie in which gremlins invade a B-17 bomber. Co-writer Ronald Shusett pitched the alien impregnating one of the crew members as a unique means of ingress. It's a unique, bizarre project that fell slowly into place through the ashes of Jodorowsky's Dune and the unproduced first version of Total Recall. The world, like the Nostromo, wasn't ready for Alien. Now, fans know what to expect.

Alien: Romulus can capture the primal terror of being alone in space with something terrible. It can deliver the blood and gore Fede Álvarez loves to pack into every feature. It can find the pulse-pounding impact of Aliens' action scenes. It can steal every camera trick, writing gimmick, and sound design technique from the 1979 sci-fi classic that's still played in film schools. It cannot, however, do all of those things and expect its audience to be surprised. After Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, Disney may demand a return to form. Like many other franchises, they want to promise fans that they can still make them like they used to. If they truly want to do what Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, and Ronald Shusett did in 1979, Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues have to find new avenues in a series that's been spinning its wheels for decades. Alien: Romulus might be the best entry since Aliens. It might revolutionize the series and lay the path for new dimensions. Unfortunately, if all it wants to do is make Alien again, it'll fall into the void next to the last four sequels.