Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

Posted by Corporal Hicks on July 7, 2024 (Updated: 08-Jul-2024)

When people ask me about my passion for the Alien franchise I could reel off a huge list of the reasons why I’ve spent the majority of my years in existence fascinated with the way the Alien terrified me, yet mesmerized me, of how I’ve come to identify with the way responsibility falls into the laps of Dallas or Hicks or how the art direction so truly pulls me into the world of Alien. I can easily go on. 

On the 17th of June, I travelled down to London, where I found myself in a cinema buried in the bottom of a hotel, there to watch a preview of Alien: Romulus. When director/writer Fede Alvarez stepped out onto the floor and introduced the footage, to hear him speak with so much passion about his experience working on the Alien franchise was amazingly reassuring. Fede Alvarez sounded very much like a man after my own fandom heart. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Fede Alvarez during the Alien: Romulus Footage Presentation at the Soho Hotel on June 17, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images) Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

Spoilers follow! Please turn back if you don’t want to know about specific scenes in Alien: Romulus. 

The footage contained the same scenes that were previously screened at CinemaCon and CCXP, in addition to a further 2 scenes that don’t appear to have been previously shown. Composed of around 15/20 minutes’ worth of footage that had been edited specifically for preview presentations like this and not wholly representative of the way these scenes will play out in the final cut of the film, Fede likened the footage we saw to that of the condensed Super 8 edits of films. It appeared like an edited presentation of the fate of Navarro, Eileen Wu’s character, and the early existence of her Xenomorph child.  

The footage opened with what seemed to be a new scene, in which we get a good look at the exterior of the dirty and used USCSS Corbelan while it is grounded, the not-quite-a-shuttle that Alien: Romulus’ characters use to finally escape the gravitational bounds of the planet they were born on. Fede would later tell us that the ship itself was actually built as a physical model and then  scanned to create the CG version of it we see in the film.  

As our motley crew begin to prep the Corbelan for take-off, we learn that David Jonsson’s Andy and Cailee Spaeny’s Rain have never left the surface before while the others have. While we get a good look at the very retro and clunky looking design of the Corbelan’s interior, we learn that Navarro seems to be in a romantic relationship with another of the crew who I believe to have been Bjorn, played by Spike Fearn. I also noticed a slightly updated look to the graphics on display on the ship’s screens, but it still maintained that 70s charm from the original Alien.  

While the preview footage didn’t focus much on Jackson’s Star, the colony on the surface, I loved seeing various large all-terrain vehicles trudging around the spaceport outside the ship, complete with Weyland-Yutani’s logo on their giant dirty wheels.  

It was also an absolute thrill to see the scene from the trailer of the Corbelan taking off beside the atmospheric processor. As much as I hope for the absolute best when I sit down to watch a new Alien (or Predator) film, I also always try to curb my expectations. We’re human, that’s a hard thing to do. So I’ve gone into Alien: Romulus with a lot of expectations from my previous watches of Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead.  

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

And what I expect is atmosphere and mood (and graphic, shocking violence). Seeing the Corbelan disappear into that violent storm was a very early taste of the atmosphere I’d been expecting and I was not disappointed at all.  

The scenes continue with the Corbelan breaking through the clouds above the storms, giving us an absolutely gorgeous looking money shot of the planet’s rings rising majestically above, the storms raging below, in imagery very reminiscent of the Nostromo’s crew patch.  

Our characters soon locate their target – the derelict Renaissance station that they speculate may have fallen into their planet’s orbit and been captured in its gravity – and their answer to how to escape the life they were born into on the planet below.  A life they’re desperate to escape and need the financial rewards of this salvage to do so.

The preview soon moved to the characters exploring the station, where a number of them – including Rain’s synthetic brother Andy – appear to have found themselves locked in a flooded laboratory. Rain heads to a different room where she removes a component from a damaged synthetic that has been bisected at the waist.  

While Rain gets to work, Navarro finds the quickly becoming iconic x-ray wand. After some experimentation, she activates and quickly understands its function. 

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

Rushing back to the flooded lab, Rain hands the component through the partially opened door and it is given to Andy who inserts it into a port at the back of his head. The addition of the new component – which actually contains the security credentials of the damaged science synth – causes Andy to reboot, leaving him motionless for the duration. 

It’s during this time that we discover the laboratory appears to be some sort of incubation chamber containing many facehuggers locked in some sort of stasis. A number of the stasis chambers seem to fail – or hatch, I’m not certain – and their embryo-implanting-contents are unleashed into the flooded room where they begin to follow their biological imperative and leap at the trapped humans.  

The promotion around Alien: Romulus has promised us a lot more attention on the facehuggers than we’ve seen in previous Alien films, and this preview footage lived up to that promise. They’re really an underutilized part of the Alien life cycle and I was rather excited seeing them in motion under the water, along the ceiling and swarming through doors.  

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

I especially enjoyed seeing Andy getting involved in the defence against the facehuggers once he had finished rebooting. There was something thrilling about seeing his synthetic reflexes in action, catching one of the facehuggers as it was leaping towards a potential host turned out to be something that I had never known I wanted to see realized in live action.  

Active once-again, Andy opens the door using his new science officer credentials and the scavengers begin to escape. It’s during this scene we see the moment from the trailer where the facehuggers break through the door, swarming into the hallway and chasing down the characters. As they attempt to lock themselves in a different room, one of the facehuggers makes it through the closing door and clamps firmly onto Navarro’s face. 

The presentation then moved onto a later scene set aboard the Corbelan again. This was another of the scenes we’d already heard about from the CinemaCon preview, but it was exciting to see this for myself and in a longer state: the death of Navarro and the birth of what seems to be Alien: Romulus’ primary Alien!  

In this scene Navarro is in the cockpit of the Corbelan, in a panic, trying to use the x-ray wand to see the horror taking place inside of her. We get some very cool visuals of the chestburster as it starts to punch its way out of her chest, the impact of the parasite on her sternum an especially significant sound effect among the chaos. It did as all good chestbursters do, and found its way violently into the world, through what was an entirely practical visual effect. 

Fede Alvarez later told the audience that the chestburster itself was built by Studio Gillis, the chest prosthetic was built by a local Hungarian special effects artist, and the scene itself was one of many examples throughout the production of all the different effects studios coming together to contribute towards effects built by the other companies.  

“There was a moment…Alec was doing the chestburster. That thing you see there is like eight people puppeteering that thing. It’s all practical, not a frame of CG, that creature. And we needed more people.  I got someone to tell Shane and Shane goes “let’s go help, Alec!” Here come Shane with his team, walking in slow motion. Goes in there, gets under the table and to me, to see them both of them together, kind of shoulder to shoulder working…that’s what I wanted. So we end up spending more money just for me to have the pleasure to seeing all those people reunited.” 

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Fede Alvarez takes part in a Q&A after the Alien: Romulus Footage Presentation at the Soho Hotel on June 17, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images) Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

In a moment somewhat reminiscent of the Queen chestburster’s first appearance in Alien: Resurrection, the head of Alien: Romulus’ chestburster pulls free of a sheath of translucent material, and we see the creature emerge in its serpentine entirety, complete with the miniature arms like we saw in Aliens, before disappearing into the depths of the ship, leaving Kay, the character played by Isabela Merced, cradling Navarro’s dead corpse.  

While Navarro was thrashing due to the pain, some of the ship’s controls are smashed causing the engines to activate. The Corbelan flies uncontrolled around the Renaissance station, crashing into the hull of the station and various protrusions along the way, causing an explosion as seen in the trailer, before seeming to come to a crash landing in some sort of cargo or shuttle bay. 

The last piece of the footage that made up the Alien: Romulus preview was the one I left the presentation most excited by, and what I believe to be our first glimpse of the new things that Alien: Romulus is showing us with the Alien life cycle.  

In it, Kay is moving down a corridor, seemingly still on the Corbelan, where she encounters a strange alien growth attached to the wall. This is the cinematic debut of what a chestburster does once it has escaped and starts to mature into the adult form of the Xenomorph. It cocoons itself. We’ve seen concepts like this before in the expanded universe – Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction immediately jumped to mind – but to finally see it on the big screen was fantastic!

Another character, who I believe was Spike Fearn’s Bjorn, soon meets up with Kay and recognizing its Alien nature, takes an electric prod and jams it deep in the cocoon and triggers the electrical pulses. We hear trashing and screeching as the vulnerable Alien within is attacked. It’s this assault that results in the Alien’s scarred features that we’ve seen in the various publicity imagery.  

I absolutely loved the design of this cocoon and how this sequence played out. We’ve seen glimpses of it in the trailers, but to see it stitched together – it played out like imagery taken straight out of the mind of H.R Giger.  

Believing he had killed the gestating Alien, the Bjorn withdrew the electric prod and backed away, only to receive a lightning fast barbed Alien tail through the bottom of the chin. The Alien slowly exits the cocoon, unfurling its newly grown limbs, the Alien’s elongated skull pushing the membrane of the cocoon aside as it emerges, like some grotesque birth.  

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

Quite understandably horrified by the death of her friend, Kay hastily retreats in panic and terror and finds herself falling off a catwalk as the preview footage is smashed to black.  

It’s too easy to become attached to your own fan theories, your own fantasies about how a film should play out and that just welcomes disappointment with wide arms. So I really try hard not to go into new films with many expectations, especially a series I care about as much as Alien.  

I’ve been failing hard with this when it comes to Alien: Romulus. Thanks to my experiences with Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead, I’ve been expecting Alien: Romulus to disturb me, to elicit some visceral reaction and I wasn’t disappointed after the preview ended, the scene with the Alien emerging from the cocoon in particular being a moment that has been living rent free in my brain ever since.  

It was hard to really get a complete sense of character or tone of the movie from the footage I saw, but what I saw of the visual world-building and continuity really impressed me. It looked very much part of the world of Alien, far more so than Prometheus or Alien: Covenant did. This was something I actually had the pleasure to talk to Fede about. 

As the event wound down and everyone filed out of the cinema, I hadn’t been expecting the opportunity to talk to Fede, but as I left, I saw him talking to another attendee. I did the awkward thing of hovering around. As the staff were looking to usher Fede away and I was resigned to leaving without talking to him, he turned to me to ask “you looked like you had something to say?”  

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

After introducing myself, Fede waved off the staff, telling me how he thought he recognised me from our podcast episodes discussing the trailers and was keen to ask my thoughts on the preview footage. It was here that we had the chance to talk about how impressed I was with the visual continuity and the world-building and Fede whipped out his phone to show me some pictures related to this that I can’t currently talk about, but he told me more about the detail that went into the look of Alien: Romulus and it was clear to see Fede’s passion for Alien and Aliens. 

After the footage cut to black and the lights came back on, Fede Alvarez and Ian Nathan (yes, that Ian Nathan who directed Aliens Expanded, wrote Alien: Vault and edited Empire Magazine for many years!) took to the floor for a question and answer session. Ian led the way before offering the microphone out to the audience.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Fede Alvarez takes part in a Q&A with Ian Nathan, after the Alien: Romulus Footage Presentation at the Soho Hotel on June 17, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images) Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

When Ian asked about when Fede realized he wanted to make an Alien film and how it came about, Fede explained that after he finished Don’t Breathe he was asked in an interview “what would you could if you could anything?” and he responded “Alien, no doubt.” Much later, while at a meeting at Scott Free, he was asked what he would want to see in a new Alien film as a fan, and he “pretty much pitched the vibe of this film [Alien: Romulus]” and discussed his interest in how the life of the children of Hadley’s Hope may have panned out had the events of Aliens not happened.

And though not a proper pitch to Scott Free, when 20th Century Studio’s President Steve Asbell eventually heard about the story, he called Fede up to ask if he was interested in doing an Alien film and asked for the pitch: “Tell me, what would you do?”

“At that point I had spent so much time with this story in my head, with this fantasy of this Alien movie that I was never going to make but if I could I would, and so I had almost a pitch there at that point. What was the basic core, the heart of the movie[…]which is the relationship between Rain and Andy that was really what got it going was there’s a very very interesting dynamic. Substract all the Alien, substract all the horror and and there’s still a story there you’ll want to see till the end, of how that relationship unfolds.

Which is quite new, as well, for the franchise. As much as obviously we love the characters from the first movie there’s no meaningful relationships really. You don’t know how they feel for each other, or who is friends. There’s none of that. There’s no time for that a lot of times in these movies, but we figured out a way to to tell a compelling horror, action, thriller and still get a good story there I think.”

Discussing his first meeting with producer Sir Ridley Scott, Fede described the experience as “terrifying.” He was advised by someone at 20th Century Studios not to pitch Ridley the story, but to tell him about the “vibe” of what Fede wanted to achieve with Alien: Romulus.

“So I’m super nervous and I rarely am with these things after a few years of working in Hollywood but this is fucking Ridley Scott right and I’m going to tell him how I think an Alien movie should be made, so it’s like the cheekiest position ever so and I give him the vibe the whole thing. And I remember Ridley at the end is like “but you don’t have a story. I haven’t heard a story here.”

I was like “fucking hell.” I did have a story but someone advised me not to tell him the story! So at that point I couldn’t say “well, by the way I do have a story but they told me [not to pitch it].” I had to just go “okay, well let me think of one” so the first goal didn’t go so well Ridley was like “you need to bring me back a full story.” And I was like “okay, will do, sir” and then we had another call that went better, where he heard the story and loved it.”

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

The Alien franchise is one that is well known for having the unique identity of its directors in each of the films,  with each feeling quite distinct from the others. While answering the question of how easy Fede found it to put his own twist on Alien with Romulus, he told the audience that:

“I don’t try to really, to be honest. I try to put myself out of the equation. When it comes to these things it’s inevitable that if you do it there’ll be your stamp. I guess it’s just you do it…if I did it, if I’m there, I’m so involved with it and I really make them super handmade these movies. I’m there in the floor puppeteering alot of the things you see there [the footage].  Every face-hugger in the water that you see is me shaking this piece of rubber under the water, holding the camera at the same time and trying to get something that looks good in the water so so I’m super super super involved in that way.

I try not to think about that because I don’t want to make it about myself, I just really want to make it about the movies and the characters and the things that I love from the previous ones. And I think the combination of them plus new things will make it something new naturally. It’s tricky because as I was asking you outside “out of the stuff you saw what doesn’t feel like it belongs?” It’s a fair question in a way of like “does it feel Alien?” Part of the job in a way is to make sure that it feels authentic, that you watch it and go “that looks like an Alien movie.”

Now at the same time, if it’s just exactly…it would be a remake of the first one. You have to introduce new things, that at first always people might go “what?” I’m sure when someone heard there’s going to be Colonial Marines in Alien now, when they heard about Aliens, sounded silly maybe because Marines were not part of the first movie at all. So you have to understand obviously, that you have to bring things that eventually, hopefully, will be part of it.”

Fede said something about his hopes for Alien: Romulus that I really appreciated about how the films were getting older, eliciting less than enthusiastic reactions from modern audiences that are not quite what fans trying to introduce new people into the franchise want to hear. With Alien: Romulus, he wanted to be able to sit someone down and introduce them to the Alien series, bringing the classic elements along with his own.

” Hopefully [it] will impact them in a similar way that it impacted us when we watched the original films.”

The practical nature of the film was reaffirmed, with Fede telling the audience that the “rule of thumb was if it can be done practical, it will be done practical” and he spoke about how Alien: Romulus also made use of an animatronic Alien. When the questions were opened up to the floor, I asked Fede if he had also made use of the classic man-in-a-suit for any of the Alien’s depictions.

“There is suit performance as well, yeah there’s a mix. It always depends on what’s the task, what’s the shot. A lot of most of the close-ups you see when there’s a lot of facial animation is an animatronic. When there was more movement, when they were crawling in something or on top of something that usually is a performer.”

He also confirmed that Legacy Effects was responsible for the design and creation of Alien: Romulus’ Xenomorph suit. I believe Fede also told us that WETA had been responsible for the face-huggers as well.

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

Fede went on to speak about the use of miniatures in Alien: Romulus, telling us that Ian Hunter, who has an extensive history of miniature work including Blade Runner, Alien: Resurrection, Pitch Black, X-Files and First Man and has several Oscars to his name, had built the miniature ships for Alien: Romulus.

Discussing the topic of canon and continuity, Fede surprised me, revealing that he’d made extensive use of online resources like Xenopedia and went as far as to consider a lot of the expanded universe in his decision-making on lore in Alien: Romulus.

“I wouldn’t dare to change anything really, to go against anything that is canon…not at all. I really try to even take the novels as canon and the comics. I really try to make an effort, as much as I can, to respect the canon not only of the movies but beyond as much as I can. It’s hard because there’s contradictions in the same world of those once you expand to the novels and everything but I really try not to change anything.”

The crew on the film would sometimes even get frustrated with Fede’s desire to be as accurate to details from the lore as possible, but this was something the crew would come to realize was important once the trailers were released and the fandom started to pick up on specific elements. Fede also commented on his awareness of how much continuity matters to fandoms, with inconsistencies pulling people out of the movie. He also explained that any changes, such as the different skin colouration of the face-huggers, are all justified in the film’s narrative.

In fact, one of the audience questions related to the inconsistencies in the Alien’s life cycle speed across the various films and what approach Alien: Romulus had settled on. Fede described the topic as something of a grey area, before elaborating that Alien: Romulus:

“Happens to have a time clock that you hear once in a while. Mu/th/ur will say there’s a t- minus going on for quite a big chunk of the movie so that kind of gives away, probably, the time frame. I would say probably [it] is definitely not as fast as Covenant. That is too much![…]Ours is not like that. It’s more in line with the first movie. There’s a bit of a time jump in some moments that just would allow it to go “okay, that probably was enough time for the creature to to grow.” It might be a little bit faster [than Alien], I would say, but I haven’t timed it yet.”

 Alien: Romulus Preview Footage Presentation and Q&A

Card’s on the table, I’ve hardly been feeling any hesitation about Alien: Romulus in the first place. Everything I’ve been hearing out of Fede’s mouth, all the footage we’ve seen from the film, has left me in a very confident place about Alien: Romulus, but I came out of this preview event feeling very pleased with what I saw. The only element of the scenes that I saw that I struggled with was the chest prosthetic during the chestbursting sequence. I found that particular part of the effect a little hard to buy into. Otherwise, I continue to be thrilled.

I can’t stop thinking about that cocoon sequence, and I’m extremely excited to see more of the Xenomorph in action on the big screen once again, and to spend more time with this new cast of worn-down characters. Bring on August the 16th!

I’d also like to thank 20th Century Studios for providing the photographs taken by Tim P. Whitby during the presentation for use in this article.

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Comments: 13
  1. spoilers :

    uggh when did a cocoon ever factor into chestburster growing into adult it’s always been it sheds it’s skin as it grows as in Alien and Brett finding the skin these directors always trying to come up with something new stick to the original concepts and quit trying to out cool the original

  2. He never goes out of his way to directly mention Isolation and it’s impact on the movie. He only mentioned it during one single panel and only because someone asked him about it.

  3. Alien Romulus is coming to theater and i hope marvel comic will work on the graphic novel based on the movie and a jr novel the New chapter of the alien saga continued Don’t worry about the critics say something bad about the movie until god will punished them and im waiting for lucasfilm to make a decision for Star wars episode 10 official title is New jedi order or a New beginning plus a release date and Power rangers reboot series must choose a New home without cancellation and i want mtv to bring back laguna beach with title New generation

  4. When AVPG first gave news, sharing the interview portion, I was kind of confused why no person in the comments section remarked how Fede Alvarez gave excellent responses to all (or near all) questions and was clearly very interested in Alien/s. But I guess that’s how comments sections can be.

    Very much glad for Aaron Percival to have this felicitous opportunity.

  5. I skipped most of the article mostly the footage you watched and talked about ect. It was nice to see Fede has been watching your reaction to the trailer on your podcast. Its a long shot, but would love to listen to Fede on your podcast hope you get him on someday. :)

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