Everyone has an opinion about which movies in the Alien franchise are any good, but most people agree that Ridley Scott’s original was a true sci-fi horror classic and that James Cameron’s action movie sequel built on that in a good way. After that, fans are mostly agreed that it was downhill all the way, at least until Scott’s return with the deeply divisive Prometheus.
Dead Orbit takes us back to the start, with a script that could easily have been a sequel to Scott’s original, had the decision been made to give audiences more of the same tense, visceral horror. It’s an homage to Scott’s vision, taking it back to its roots of with a hidden alien threat that could leap out of a duct at any moment.
The plot is uncomplicated, though it’s made slightly more interesting by starting at the end and working through the story in a disjointed way, using flashbacks. You have to pay attention to where you are along the timeline at any one point but there are visual clues and dead bodies piling up to help you work it out. We won’t go into it here – aliens are involved and they hunt their way through the crew as the humans struggle to survive, but we won’t spoil the surprise by going into further detail.
The art is great, reminiscent of early Frank Miller (think Ronin) with a gritty, grimy vision of the future and what life spent aboard an remote and isolated space station orbiting a deserted planet might be like for its handful of grumpy, claustrophobic inhabitants.
The visceral horror and the cramped, claustrophobic conditions make Dead Orbit everything that a fan of the original could want from a sequel, if you want more of the same in a sympathetic, respectful rendering. It doesn’t do anything to further the story, like Prometheus did, but should satiate the appetites of those who just want more Alien.