Alien: Romulus Star Claims the New Film Checks All Fan Boxes. Why That Scares Me More Than A Facehugger

 Cailee Spaeny looks terrified while holding a pulse rifle in an empty hallway in Alien: Romulus.
Cailee Spaeny looks terrified while holding a pulse rifle in an empty hallway in Alien: Romulus.

The line between homage and pandering can often become blurred, and the upcoming Alien: Romulus has stirred up a simmering pot of expectations and reservations among the Alien Saga’s fanbase and myself. Cailee Spaeny, leading the cast of this newest installment, has confidently stated that the film will "check all the fan boxes." While this promise is tantalizing, it raises the alarm in my xenomorph-lovin’ noggin—could Romulus fall into the same trap as its predecessor, Alien: Covenant, by focusing too much on fan service at the expense of genuine storytelling?

By my estimation, the alien movies together compile one of the best horror movie franchises. Much like Pizza, even a bad Alien movie is still pretty good–looking at you, Alien Resurrection. Spaeny's recent comments to CinePOP are both reassuring and slightly concerning. She told the outlet:

I don’t think I can say much, but I already delivered something, so I’ll just repeat it. It takes place between Alien and Aliens, in terms of plot and chronology. But we have an incredible cast, some new faces. The Facehuggers are there. You will get everything you want from the film. Fede Alvarez is an incredible director who has so much respect for this franchise and this world. He knows everything about the Alien franchise like the back of his hand. All Alien fans will have everything they want.

The commitment to respecting the franchise’s roots while introducing new elements could be the formula for Romulus’s success. Yet, therein lies a potential pitfall—the delicate balance between innovation and tradition. The Alien series, at its core, has always been a trendsetter in the sci-fi horror genre. From Ridley Scott’s chillingly atmospheric original to James Cameron’s action-oriented sequel, the first two installments added something fresh to the blueprint Scott laid down in 1979.

Alien: Covenant, despite its merits, including our own mostly positive 3.5-star review of the movie, faced criticism for leaning heavily into familiar tropes and echoes of its predecessors, seemingly in a bid to appease dissatisfied fans of Prometheus, which ultimately led to a disappointing box office performance. The result felt somewhat manufactured, a collage of the saga’s greatest hits without the soul that made the better films of the franchise stand out. The fear is that Alien: Romulus might prioritize ticking off a checklist of expected features and, much like Covenant, come across as a retread of the 1978 original or Cameron’s sequel. I hope the filmmakers have prioritized crafting a compelling narrative that pushes the series’ boundaries.

Yet, there is hope. Alvarez’s track record suggests a director who can marry a respect for the source material with his own unique vision. If anyone can navigate the treacherous waters of fan expectations and narrative innovation, it might be him, considering how well he tackled the surprisingly great 2013 remake of Evil Dead. The mention of “new faces” and placement in the confusing Alien franchise timeline, which is ripe with potential, and also bodes well for the film. This setting allows Romulus to explore untold stories and expand the universe in ways that even the best Alien movies may not have been able to.

Ultimately, the success of Alien: Romulus will hinge on its ability to innovate within the confines of its iconic predecessors’ shadows. Fans like myself do not just want another Alien movie; they want an Alien movie that moves the genre and the series forward while respecting its past. So here’s hoping Alvarez and crew are up to the challenge.

Alien: Romulus is set to hit the 2024 movie schedule on August 16th. Be sure also to check out our list of upcoming horror movies to see what other scary flicks are headed to a theater near you.