Alien: Romulus | Combing the first trailer for nerdy clues

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
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Judging by the first trailer, Alien: Romulus draws heavily on the 1979 original. We comb the new promo for nerdy clues and details…

Let’s face it, a teaser trailer wouldn’t be worthy of the name if it gave too much away, and the 62-second promo for director Fede Alvarez’s Alien: Romulus is appropriately coy.

It’s got plenty of the stuff you’d expect from a movie with the Alien name on the marquee: puny humans running in terror down corridors, glimpses of gore, and something parasitic and drooling loitering in the shadows.

What’s immediately obvious from that teaser, though, is just how heavily it leans on the design and tone of Ridley Scott’s 1979 franchise-starter. We’ve known for a while that Alvarez’s film would be set between Alien and its 1986 sequel, Aliens, but we didn’t necessarily know which film it would draw from the most; Alien and Aliens are, after all, stylistically different films, and arguably separate genres – Alien is all creeping dread while Aliens is more dynamic action.

First, though, there’s the plot: a small group of young (20-something) scavengers break into a Weyland Yutani space station and immediately get more than they bargained for. At present, that’s all we know: Cailee Spaeny, David Jonsson, Archie Renaux, Isabela Merced, Spike Fearn and Aileen Wu are all among those young, scruffy space scavengers who will variously be impregnated or otherwise murdered by the dreaded xenomorph in its various forms.

Returning to the trailer, and the opening shot – of what is likely the scavengers’ ship, the Romulus, heading towards said space station – contains one obvious detail. The space station’s clearly orbiting a planet with a ring, which is almost certainly the gas giant, Capalmos. That name may nor ring a bell (it was only applied to the franchise recently) but it’s the planet around which LV-426 and LV-223 orbit.

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
Those rings look mighty familiar. Credit: 20th Century Studios.
A shot from 1979’s Alien. That’s surely the same ringed planet. Credit: 20th Century Studios.

This means that Alien: Romulus not only takes place between Alien and Aliens, but in astronomical terms, only a stone’s throw away from where their events unfolded. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Alvarez said that Alien: Romulus has connections of some form or another to every mainline film in the franchise, “from Alien to Alien: Covenant.”

These connections may only take the form of easter eggs (“If you’re a fan,” Alvarez says, “you’ll be that person who annoys your friends in the theatre”), but it’s telling that he hasn’t sought to jettison or ignore the events of Alien: Covenant altogether. This could be potentially significant for reasons we’ll get to in a second.

The space station we see the Romulus approach is colossal and disc-shaped, and quite unlike any other structure we’ve seen in the Alien franchise so far. Alvarez confirms in that interview above that it’s a Weyland Yutani station, though, and as the trailer cuts to the interior for a prowling, 22-second take, we can see that its style is firmly in the vein of the Nostromo in Alien, from the submarine-like industrial corridors to those distinctive bulkheads. Notably, the cryo chambers look quite different from Alien’s, with lids that slide rather than swing up.

(You may have also noticed by now the eerie haunted space owl noises we get in the background; these were first heard in the original trailer from Alien about 45 years ago, and were also reprised for the teaser trailer for Prometheus in 2012. The trailer for Prometheus was fantastic; the finished film less so. This writer still hasn’t gotten over the heartbreak. Moving on…)

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
I’ve seen that corridor somewhere before… Credit: 20th Century Studios.
Alien (1979). Credit: 20th Century Studios.

It’s at the midpoint when things kick off and the editor’s given more work to do. Here come rapid-fire shots of characters fleeing for their lives; the shots are so brief, in fact, that it’s difficult to make out the actors’ faces in most shots.

What Alvarez and his team are keen to highlight, though, is that the station contains facehuggers – and lots of them. The shot of at least half a dozen arachnid parasites careening through a window is the kind of thing that simply couldn’t have been achieved in the 1970s and 80s; in the context of the trailer, at least, this sudden onslaught of horny space spiders looks genuinely spine-tingling.

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
Never mind the baseball bat – for the love of god, just run. Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Read more: Why Fede Alvarez’s Alien could give the series the clean break it needs

The question the facehuggers raise is: how did they get on the station? Presumably, its original inhabitants dropped down to LV-426 and brought back at least half a dozen eggs with them – perhaps to experiment on, in that typical Weyland Yutani way. The original crew then perished, and the remaining facehuggers then waited around for some new victims to show up.

If Alien: Covenant is still canon, though, there’s also the tiny possibility that Alien: Romulus will tie into that in some way, with the facehuggers on the space station being somehow let loose by the renegade artificial human, David (Michael Fassbender).

After all, if Prometheus and Alien: Covenant aren’t being ignored by Alien: Romulus (which is the opposite of Noah Hawley’s stated approach for his Alien TV series), then that means the xenomorph is essentially the result of David’s tinkering. If we were to put money on this, though, we’d suggest that the ‘eggs brought back from LV-426’ route is the cleaner one; attempting to explain who David is and how the hell he came to create an entire race of deadly monsters is probably a bit much for what looks like a brisk, direct space horror flick.

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
Yes, this is from Alien: Romulus, not something we just found on the internet. Honest, mum. Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Origins aside, the facehuggers evidently wreak their usual havoc. There’s one icky shot of a victim pulling a facehugger appendage out of her throat; the screams we hear near the start of the trailer are, according to Alvarez himself, coming from Isabella Merced’s character. That ‘disgusting’ scene that Merced hinted at in February? Those bloodcurdling cries are taken from that moment, the director says.

Elsewhere, there’s a shot which shows a couple of characters – and a lot of debris – floating around, suggesting the station’s artificial gravity system fails at some point in the story. This is likely due to the almighty explosion we see occur at the 43 second mark.

Then comes a particularly telling shot: that of Cailee Spaeny wielding a familiar-looking pulse rifle, and looking an awful lot like Ellen Ripley. The camera angle and lighting appear to be calculatedly designed to echo a shot of Sigourney Weaver in Alien. There’s been some speculation already that Spaeny might be playing Amanda, the daughter of Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Could this be a hint that the theory was true? The film’s placement between Alien and Aliens would make it a possibility.

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
Cailee Spaeny channelling more than a sliver of Ripley in Alien: Romulus. Credit: 20th Century Studios.
It could be a coincidence. We suspect it isn’t. Everyone’s related in space. Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Then comes that final, fleeting shot of a fully-grown Alien. Significantly, this too is based on the HR Giger-designed creature from the 1979 film – right down to its shiny, metallic-looking teeth – rather than the slightly simplified form seen in Aliens. Will there be just one of these starbeasts? The number of facehuggers seen earlier suggests there’ll be several.

Alien: Romulus teaser trailer
Our one, teasing glimpse of Alien: Romulus’ xenomorph. Credit: 20th Century Studios.
Yep, definitely a relation. Credit: 20th Century Studios.

There are things to chew on in the Alien: Romulus teaser, then – and likely lots more bits and pieces this very tired writer has missed – but also plenty of gaps for us to ponder. We already know that Ridley Scott has seen an early cut of the film and enthusiastically described it as “fucking great.” Let’s hope that the rest of us agree.

Alien: Romulus is out in UK cinemas on the 16th August.

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