Monday, September 17, 2012

Solomon Kane; the movie

I watched Solomon Kane on-demand last night. *sigh* I really had a hard time divorcing myself from the source material. Because of that, honestly, I spent most of the movie saying "WTF?" Maybe if you've never read the original Robert E. Howard stories, you'd enjoy it more than I did.

Like Conan the Barbarian (1982), in and of itself it is a passable adventure movie, but the Kane has no more relation to the literary Solomon Kane than Conan did to Howard's Conan.

Even on its own, though, there were things going on that didn't make much sense or were disappointing.

Here be spoilers, ye have beene warned.

I expected to take the movie on its own terms.  I knew from other Howard fans that this wasn't going to be Howard's Kane.  But, man, I was expecting a lot more from this movie.  I wish I could say it was better.  About the only thing that makes it passable is the acting of Purefoy and Postlethwaite.

The plot is pure cookie cutter fantasy fodder.  Kane is bad, Kane is a royal.  Kane had an evil brother, Kane was disinherited, killed his brother, ran away.  Kane is repenting his evil ways.  ("The Shadow knows!") A sorcerer has risen, possessing people, spreading an army of possessed people and rainy English weather across the countryside.  They are led by a hulking masked leader who serves the sorcerer.  Want to guess who the masked man is?  Want to guess where the sorcerer has setup his HQ?

This might have worked if they dropped the historical angle, changed the names of characters and countries, and just called it a fantasy world.  A demonic army spreads across England in 1600 and Queen Elizabeth sends no army?  Not even the miltia in the area are mustered?

Not to go back to Howard as source, but as example - Howard knew history.  He not only used it in historicals (naturally,) it also informed his fantasy tales.  Conan's world is a mashup of historical era and empires.  Literary Kane stories are historical dark fantasies and horror.  Almost all sense of history is wasted in this movie.

The final battle, too, seemed really dull and not particularly compelling.  One moment Kane's shoulder is run through by a sword blade.  Moments later he is fighting two-handed without losing any coordination in his wounded arm.

Typical Hollywood stuff, even if this was made outside Hollywood (and hasn't gotten North American distribution until now.)

So, aside from the predictable disappointments, there was one shining moment where I knew everyone just said, "Screw it.  Give 'em what they want."  ("They" being Hollywood producers, distributors, whoever.)  During the crescendo battle, Kane faces off against a demon.  A great, large fiery demon.  For about two seconds, I thought, "It's 'Kane - the video game'!"  Then the demon moved; with lava flowing under its open ribcage.  It ducked its head, and bellowed and you could see the furnace fires deep in its throat.

That's right, people.  Solomon Kane battles the Balrog.

Do I look like friggin' Gandalf?
Just like Conan the Barbarian (2011), I find myself far more disappointed than angry as a Howard fan.  Cliched and predictable, unfortunately dull.  Maybe if they had gone with the original sources they would have made something just different enough to stand out and be a box office success.

But we won't know until next time - if someone is willing to hold closer the sources - and if there is a next time.


  1. I still want to see it-I still want to like it, but I know how it goes.

    The trailer made it look like the Balrog to me-so I was expecting that.

    I remember Bruce Durham saying something about the reason behind the backstory/origin but I don't recall exactly why they felt they had to open it this way.

    One of these days, REH will get a movie done right.

  2. I hope you're right, David. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening any time soon. The old Thriller episode of "Pigeons from Hell" is still the best Howard adaptation, IMO.

  3. Labeling these movies as Conan, or Solomon Kane, or so on generally just seems a gimmick to attract a few viewers who like the writer. It's like a promise they have no intention of fulfilling. Sort of like in politics.

  4. David; basically, they believed the movie wouldn't get anywhere with audiences or distributors if it didn't have an origin story.

    Given that it failed, anyway, one wonders if adhering to sources would have helped.

    Keith; I need to see that.

    Charles; yes. John Maddox Roberts commented that Hollywood doesn't buy stories - they buy concepts. Conan is a barbarian in a loincloth in a fantasy world. Solomon Kane is a Puritan who battles evil occult forces. They take those ideas and run, REH sources don't matter to them.

  5. A demonic army spreads across England in 1600 and Queen Elizabeth sends no army? Not even the miltia in the area are mustered?

    Hah, I considered that:

    I think Queen Elizabeth was in on it the whole time, as it handily explains a lot of apparent inconsistencies.

  6. Taranaich, I like your Queenie Theory. It makes so much more sense now!

    Though, I might someday read the Ramsey Campbell novelization to see if he was given any extra bits (or, invented them) to explain this story.

  7. I dream of a time when someone in Hollywood will get a clue or Paradox will get a backbone.

    There is a reason why REH's stories are so fandamtastic and should be adapted instead. But no, instead they take the basic elements to write a really bad pastiche.

    Its a Bizzaro world. Everything turned around.

    Its even the same with Dark Horse. When then stick to actual adaptations of REH's stories they rock. When they drift into pastiche from it...its awful.

    I can understand wanting to put one's style to their work but come on.

    Solomon Kane deserved better. Way better and so did we.

  8. The most frustrating part is how easy it should be to do REH. You can practically storyboard right from the text. It's clear exciting stuff. Instead we get muddled, dull stuff with the directors' various crochets (ex. Milius) smothering REH. Sad stuff. Still, I'll probably watch "Kane" one masochistic day.

  9. I still think it succeeds as a S&S tale but fails as a Solomon Kane story. I'd like to see Bassett get a chance to do it right, though.

    And as Paul said, the movie wouldn't have been made if it hadn't been an origin story.

  10. Paul, I would say you've just saved me from wasting 2 hours of my life, but honestly ... I wasn't going to see this one anyway. I've pretty much given up on Hollywood doing a decent fantasy or action movie in the near future. Maybe in another decade things will change, but for now, everything seems to be SPECIAL EFFECTS! MORE SPECIAL EFFECTS! BIG, BIG MONSTERS! BIG, BIG EXPLOSIONS! Oh, yeah, and we have to throw in a little bit of story. Sheesh, it's almost like the porn industry used to be back when they tried to include thin, little plots into their movies.

    Uh, erm, not that I know much of anything about the porn industry. I just know what I've heard.