Back when this site was known as World of Meh, I wrote a retrospective of the adaptions of Robert E. Howard’s work. I talked about how they stacked up to their literary counterparts, and basically acted like a big time geek. And now I get to talk about the most recent adaption based on the great writer’s work, his second greatest creation after the legendary Conan. The great Puritan warrior, Solomon Kane.
Solomon Kane is one of Howard’s earliest creations. Kane first appeared in the novelette Red Shadows, where he pursued a French bandit and his band across Europe and Africa, encountering all manners of mortal and supernatural evils. Kane was the first character Howard created who lasted more than two stories, becoming a major part of his writings. Several incomplete fragments are often used as inspiration for new stories by comic writers. It’s actually kind of surprising how he only got this movie in 2009.
Serving as an origin story, Solomon Kane (played with sheer gravitas by James Purefoy) starts as a violent raider who attacks an African kingdom. While there, a demonic creature called the Devil’s Reaper appears, claiming Kane’s soul belongs to Hell. Kane escapes, and returns to England attempting to be a man of peace. When a family of Puritans he travels with are attacked by the warriors serving an evil sorcerer named Malachi and his agent, a masked rider, Kane must take up his swords and guns again to rescue the abducted daughter, even if it costs his soul.
There are a lot of elements in play from Howard’s stories, like Kane’s determination to keep a promise to avenge the innocent, even at great risk, or his borderline fanatical religious beliefs that are admittedly insane, yet show that some Pagan magic can be used for good.
I think that doing the one story never told works. Kane’s past was always a mystery, since he just shows up in the stories ready to fight any evil. The movie not only covers this first battle between Kane and the forces of Hell, but what events in his past led him to become the great warrior he is. The film has this great, gritty look to it, reminiscent of the battles in Lord of the Rings and how they were willing to depict the grim battling in the filth and mud between heroes and villains. Purefoy is amazing not just as he growls Kane’s lines, but his skill with the character’s trademark rapier and cutlass in the fight scenes is breathtaking to witness.
Solomon Kane was independently produced in Europe, outside of Hollywood (which is why our American readers may not have seen it). Lionsgate has purchased the rights for the film in the US, and all we can do is hope it comes out here, instead of buying the import DVD like I did. All I can say in conclusion is that Kane may be the one to bring the genre of sword and sorcery back to film.