Solomon Kane

There are many paths to redemption, not all of them peaceful.

Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) was a sailor and, from what I can tell, privateer for England—this is pre-Acts of Union—and a ruthless one at that.  We meet him in North Africa which he pillaged in search of some treasure.  But he got more than he bargained for.  The Devil’s reaper (Ian Whyte) met him there and claimed his soul (though Kane never sold it).  Kane escapes to a monastery and changes his ways to avoid the Devil’s gaze.  The monks kick him out and he’s got to make his own way.  He meets up with pilgrims who intended to settle in the New World (six years before Jamestown).  Events transpire to get Kane killing again, which he does, for quite some time, in order to save someone or other.  Oomph.

Written and directed by Michael J. Bassett.  Apparently he thought an action hero in a pilgrim’s outfit sounded like a cool idea.  That was the first in a long, long procession of mistakes.  There were a couple noticeable continuity screw-ups.  First, why does Solomon have a region-free upper class accent as a boy but a pronounced (though consistent) West Country accent after he’s been gone for years?  Now he has one sword, now he has two.  Those are the technical ones.  For the rest, I’m going to need a bigger paragraph.

This story is riddled with silliness.  The ending is a master class unto itself in turning a premise inside-out to tie up loose ends.  But those ends were neither loose nor in need of tying.  That’s pretty funny.  What was laugh out loud hysterical was when Kane says “I lived here as a boy, we don’t need to go through the front gate” or some such lyrical brilliance and they come up through a grate—this is the early 17th century we’re talking about at a castle—with no explanation of where this grate communicates.  I can only surmise that it was put in place to drain the endless monsoons the west of England was apparently victim to during that era.  The endlessly floating snowflakes-cum-chicken feathers and cloudy were the other two meteorological states.  The spatial marvels continued with unexplained catacombs to anywhere.

Did he kill that witch?  Why did his father have the right to give up his two sons’ souls?  He has no privity!  Why does Pete Postlethwaite have special insight into how Kane can redeem his soul?  No purchase was necessary, I can tell, but these rules need explaining.  Why does anything work the way it works?  I know that this is based on stories that, presumably, are full of exposition that would be blindingly dull if fully explained, but that’s the price of adapting.  Give me something to explain what’s happening because slicing people’s throats and such isn’t enough to keep me happy.  Ew.  Nor is hacking that dude’s head off.  That was nasty.  Have we entered some circle of entertainment hell that requires thick and dark bloody violence?  I watched about two minutes of Punisher: War Zone (2008) before I had to turn it off.  I’m not antiviolence, but when I can tell the question being answered on screen is “How do we kill this guy without things getting all samey?” we need to reassess.  It’s sick is what it is.  I blame the parents.

Oh yeah, and the direction.  Let’s leave the continuity stuff to one side.  Does he make up for it with storytelling or a good visual presentation?  No and no.  The plot holes were one problem and the pacing was another.  Plot holes may not be the appropriate term and, in any case, it’s over used by people who can’t follow a plot.  Bassett can’t take a dramatic moment without turning it into a pose to revolve around in slow motion.  That says something about this movie—that it isn’t about the characters as much as a series of milestones.  The movie looks and feels like something Starz might put out.  There are glimmers of cash and production, but their wasted on hackneyed instincts and the style of big-budget blockbuster bombs—pardon my redundance.

There was something here.  Even with the first scene’s rough graphics and rather cheesy odor, I thought that something could be made of a doomed soul wandering the world to destroy evil where he found it.  I was even ready to allow for the 17th century despite my hatred for the period as being historically boring and a time of fashion I particularly dislike.  Then it continued a relentless journey into mediocrity and finally badness.

The movie will be released at some point in the United States despite being three years old.  Perhaps they used that time to upgrade some of the graphics and editing.  I may even watch it to see.  Probably not.  Because they aren’t.  Trust me on this, you won’t like it.  You may tolerate it.  Your eyes may glaze over and hours of your tragic life may pass.  But it’s not the same.  Know thyself by the company thou keepest (see frequently bought together).

Oh, and cannonballs don’t explode in flame when they hit things.  They’re balls of iron (and originally stone) that hit things very hard.

About Prof. Ratigan

A semi-lawyer and amateur enthusiast.
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6 Responses to Solomon Kane

  1. bkmom says:

    Might watch to see how bad it is.

  2. alharron says:

    “I know that this is based on stories that, presumably, are full of exposition that would be blindingly dull if fully explained, but that’s the price of adapting.”

    Here is a full list of the things in the film that are in the original stories:

    – There is a puritan adventurer called Solomon Kane
    – He was born in 16th Century Devonshire
    – He’s an exceptional swordsman who wears black
    – He was a privateer for the English navy
    – He went to Africa once

    That’s it. None of this stuff about selling his soul and being condemned to hell, being an avaricious murdering pirate, renouncing violence, or his various family issues (it isn’t known if he even *had* a brother) is in the stories. The entire storyline about the pilgrim family and the sorcerer taking over England is a complete invention of the scriptwriters. So any ambiguity about the theology of souls and whatnot is entirely on the film.

    The original stories are two-fisted adventures with a heavy overlay of horror: any major exposition is restricted to maybe one or two infodumps about the history of some ancient city or evil beastie. Most of it’s atmosphere, action and adventure. The film didn’t pay much of a price for adapting, since it didn’t adapt ANYTHING save for a few bits and pieces. Hilariously, the little theological musings in the film actually CONTRADICT what little there is in the stories, most importantly the fact that there’s no direct evidence God or Satan actually exist in the stories, let alone Devil’s Reapers or giant robot demons: most supernatural horrors Kane faces are undead, Lovecraftian abominations, or pre-human monsters. That’s part of the complexity of Kane’s character, how he deals with being a Puritan in a seemingly godless, pagan universe.

    I had a more positive experience with the film than yourself despite the vast divergences from the source material, but it does seem to have mixed reactions altogether.

    • Very interesting. And strange. And disappointing. I wonder why, maybe around the twelfth page of the script, they didn’t just say, “You know what, let’s call this something else.” I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to adaptations, so this kind of monkey business–added to the fact that they can’t even blame source material for sucking–only makes me dislike it more.

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