Alien: Romulus Confirms a Call Back to an Iconic Alien 3 Moment

The Alien: Romulus trailer includes plenty of nods to Alien and Aliens. But the most important reference may be a recreation of a famous shot from Alien 3.

The first full teaser for Alien: Romulus contains lots of nods to Alien and Aliens. Not only does it integrate the famous tagline for the first film, but we get plenty of cool guns, facehuggers on the attack, and even a xenomorph rising from the water. In other words, all things that made Aliens great.

The connections between Alien and Aliens make sense. Director Fede Álvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues have made clear that Romulus takes place between those two landmark films. However, the standout, most shocking scene pays homage to Alien 3, a movie so divisive that even director David Fincher disowned it.

In the final image of the trailer, a xenomorph approaches protagonist Rain (Cailee Spaeny, last seen in Civil War) and extends its inner jaw. Soaked with sweat and steam, Rain turns her anguished face away from the monster and toward the camera.

Cailee Spaeny and xenomorph in Alien: Romulus

This shot recalls an iconic moment from Alien 3, when the xenomorph on Fiorina 161 corners the now-bald Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). In a similar sequene, Ripley prepares for death as the alien’s inner jaw protrudes… but then it turns away, leaving Ripley alive. As we soon learn, the xenomorph spared Ripley because she’s already impregnated, just one more disbarring moment in a relentlessly bleak movie.

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That remorseless cruelty makes Alien 3 a divisive film, even today. Those who dislike Alien 3 point to unnecessarily mean-spirited decisions, such as killing off Aliens‘ Newt (Carrie Henn) before the credits, and stranding Ripley on a planet full of rapists. Those who stand up for the movie praise it for those same reasons, especially the work print version, which includes more of Fincher’s original, unpleasant vision.

So the inclusion of the Alien 3 shot might give us a hint to Álvarez’s approach on Alien: Romulus. The director has described the movie as being between Alien and Aliens not just in terms chronology but also tone. In other words, he wants to retain Ridley Scott‘s haunted house in space tone from the first movie while including the action that James Cameron brought to Aliens.

Although both movies share equal esteem in the public consciousness, Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise has put the first movie’s tone to the forefront. The prequel Prometheus uses the trappings of Alien as a launching point for theological inquiry, which he continues through the more traditional horror in Alien: Covenant.

The trailer for Romulus uses a slow title reveal and rhythmic sounds, reminiscent of the siren from the first Alien and Prometheus teasers. Combined with the action beats on display, Romulus‘ debts to Alien/Aliens are clear. But with the Alien 3 nod, Álvarez points to something nastier, which also makes sense. After all, Álvarez’s The Evil Dead doubled down on the grime and gore of the Sam Raimi original, even revisiting the tree rape scene that Raimi has since regretted.

If the Alien 3 nod does reveal the movie’s tone, then Alien: Romulus might not be a straightforward homage to movies that we’ve already seen. Instead Álvarez might have something altogether nastier in mind, full of gross out moments not seen in Alien since the first creature popped from John Hurt’s stomach.

Alien: Romulus opens in theaters on Aug. 16, 2024.

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