Robert E. Howard has been often called the ‘master of sword and sorcery’ and arguably, his most famous character is “Conan The Barbarian”. While the Cimmerian may have made him famous, but Howard also had another character that appeared in the comic magazine called “Weird Tales” and this character was called “Solomon Kane”. Kane’s stories took place in Europe and Africa, fighting Ottoman soldiers and vanquishing evil wherever he finds it. Director/writer Michael Bassett had proclaimed himself as huge follower of the character, and his devotion had led him to create the film “Solomon Kane”. I find it a little weird that this film had been completed back in 2009, had been screened in the Toronto film festival and released in Europe from 2009-2010; yet, the film was never released theatrically in America until 2012 with the video release just early this year. Not certain what the reasons for its delay had been, but American viewers now have a chance to experience Bassett’s film about Howard’s fictional hero.
The story is pretty much your basic man who seeks redemption in an arena of good versus evil. Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is a pirate who had conquered cities in search of riches and power. When an encounter with the devil’s reaper makes him aware that his soul has been damned to hell, Solomon retreats to England seeking forgiveness from God as he hides out in a monastery. A year passed and Solomon finds himself back on the road again, and along the road, he meets a kindly Puritan named William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite) and his family. The family takes in Solomon as they look for a better life. But when William’s family is attacked by the henchmen of a sorcerer named Malachi (Jason Flemyng) and his daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) taken, Solomon must fight once again to save her from Malachi’s clutches. But this battle may bring Solomon to face his own demons once and for all.
A man cursed with damnation who seeks his own redemption from the devil as his own past threatens to engulf him. The core plot of the film has its B-movie charm, and it carries the usual trappings of the swordplay and fantasy genre. The workings of its plot is very familiar and frankly, it barely scratches the surface of the titular character created by Howard. The development of a man damned who seeks redemption is a little underwritten into the script. After all, for such a premise to become compelling, hehas to be developed as someone truly cruel and without conscience. The few minutes it spent hinting that Kane was indeed an evil man was not enough to pitch this premise, and while the flow of the screenplay moved quickly as it focused on the side of Solomon’s search for redemption, it never quite reaches the amount of emotion necessary to create a true compelling character. His relationship to Meredith is almost none-existent, that while I understood, his risks were not fully realized to create the amount of tension necessary to make the battles truly mean something.
Not that the film was uninspired in its storytelling, but the route it took just kept certain emotional connections at arm’s length. Always reaching and yet never truly realizing it, the only effective drama to be had were seen in some scenes. It moves around its devices through the expression of its action sequences, and admittedly these action scenes provided moderate excitement. The swordplay were quite decent for a film with a limited budget. It also serves up a fair amount of blood and gore, and has a its share of solid visual effects. I really enjoyed the flaming-metal-lava creature that moved like an intimidating colossus, and the set pieces were creative in their own way. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they were original (reminded me of “Brotherhood of the Wolf” and Sommer's "Van Hellsing" for some reason) but the designs were made to complement its gloomy atmosphere which fit its swords, guns and witchcraft theme. There is something creepy when the henchmen had such huge eyeballs, and the make up designs gave them a unifying personality which was a nice touch.
Purefoy does the best he could with the title character and while some of the action felt shaky, he made do with what he had in the film. The supporting characters did feel very one-dimensional and I wished that certain elements in the script were introduced and worked better. The film had a huge potential to become much more exciting than it ended up being, since sadly, it just could not pull it off. The film had the 17th century backdrop, spiritual overtone and familial issues that gave it some intrigue, but it was just a very underwritten film that it was just too bad that fans of the character just did not get the defining film that they may have hoped for. But, Bassett did display a talent for editing, framing shots and executing its visuals, and I do hope to see him improve his art in the future (pass “SilentHill Revelations”) Fans of the film can now pick up the movie in America, but it is a film worthy of a RENTAL at the most. [3- Out of 5 Stars]
Star Rating: Solomon Kane is a film divided, at odds with itself over the need to be equal parts a morality play and a sword-and-sorcery action/adventure film. Although both approaches allow for several satisfying scenes, neither approach is permitted to be all it could have been. As a morality play, it often takes itself too seriously; there are one too many instances where the characters speak lines that border on the preachiness of an afterschool special. … more