Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Solomon Kane review

"And he hangs at dawn! Ho! Ho!"
       The speaker smote his thigh resoundingly and laughed in a high-pitched grating voice.  He glanced boastfully at his hearers, and gulped the wine which stood at his elbow.  The fire leaped and flickered in the tap-room  fireplace and no one answer him.         --R. E. Howard, Solomon Kane, The Right Hand of Doom

I rented the movie, Solomon Kane, over the past weekend.  He's one of the many  fictional characters that the fantasist, Robert E. Howard created.  Howard is probably best remembered as the creator of Conan, but in addition to the muscular barbarian, he also wrote about other characters like King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, sailor Steve Costigan, El Borak, Dark Agnes, among other weird tales. Solomon Kane embodies the adventuring  mold of other literary characters like Robin Hood, Captain Nemo, Tarzan, and others.  Within the short stories Howard employs several story devices--action, drama, rich detail, revenge, fantasy elements like necromancy, witches, monsters, and high adventure.  I'm not as familiar with the Solomon Kane stories as the Conan tales, but I have read a few of them.

                                                      art work by Gene Day

Solomon Kane is best described as a blending of Puritan and Cavalier, with a touch of the ancient philosopher, and more than a touch of the pagan...A hunger in his soul drove him on and on, an urge to right all wrongs, protect all weaker things...Wayward and restless as the wind, he was consistent in only one respect--he was true to his ideals of justice and rights.

Solomon Kane has gotten somewhat mixed reviews, but overall positive.  I think some of the diehard fans of the films will even be mixed over it.  I think a lot of that comes from armchair directing, thinking that if they sat in the director's chair, they would have done it differently.  Heck, I catch myself thinking that at times wondering why a certain director went one route, and why didn't he do this or that.  I guess that's normal.  But like Roger Ebert once said, you have to review a film on what's presented, and not what could have been.  Also like Stephen King has said about his novels that have been adapted to screen,  movies are different from the novel, but the novels are always there if  you want to read them.  So like the earlier Conan movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger or the more recent Disney film, John Carter,  there are going to be differences--things not true to the original tales.  Some liberties have to be taken I think, and overall that didn't bother me, for example, the opening sequence or trying to formulate an origin backstory for Kane.  In the original tales, Solomon Kane, and other Howard creations arrive on the scene full blown.  He describes the characters and the setting of their world, but there's not much of an origin story per se. Perhaps modern audiences enjoy that sort of things, or Hollywood feels that an origin story is necessary, whereas in times past, when these sort of stories were written, it just wasn't the norm.  It doesn't bother me either way.  I don't think their past has to be completely spelled out, a lot has been said about that concerning comic book characters as well.  I think a bit of mysterious past is fine.  But that's my armchair assessment...

So I was a bit taken aback by the opening sequences and origin setup, almost the same way I was with the John Carter setup, thinking, I don't remember reading about this or I don't remember it happening this way.  But I just went with it, plus my comprehension and remembering plot details in books fades pretty quickly too, so I'm pretty easy just to more or less go with it and let the story unfold.  I will say that the acting, set designs, costumes, and such are great.  The director, Michael J. Bassett,  captures the mood and sombre feel for the characters and period, and you can tell he wants to create something epic and mature.  I also applaud him highly for trying to tell a straightforward tale, not a silly, goofy tale like the recent Lone Ranger (which I haven't seen, but I don't have much of a desire to either), or worse yet something like Van Helsing or Kevin Sorbo's Hercules.  James Purefoy plays his role as Solomon Kane well and was a good choice.  He's good at portraying a swashbuckler, who reaches a spiritual epiphany due to the opening scenes, and tries to find resolution and redemption.

If I had any negative criticism, it would only be towards the end where they pull in the CG creature.  It didn't seem necessary to me, and seemed like it was a bit aimed towards a Lord of the Rings moment.  But it didn't ruin the picture for me either. Overall I enjoy the film.  From what I've read, Solomon Kane was planned as the first part of a trilogy, and if the other two ever come out, I'd be curious in watching them if they can maintain at least this quality. 




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