A Predictable but Enjoyable Fantasy Adventure
Solomon Kane (2009) directed by Michael J. Bassett from the US/UK/Czech/France
Solomon Kane fans rejoice! Hello? Ah...well admittedly although I am one that's mainly because I'm a big fan of all of Robert E. Howard's works so although the author was quite influential and his Conan quite well known, his other characters such as Solomon Kane, El Borak, Bran Mak Morn, probably not so much. Anyways it took me a while to track down a copy but finally I did and despite the film being a fairly poor representation of the character on screen and thus making my nerd side not so happy, I actually ended up really enjoying the film.
Along with so many character oriented films adapted from other established sources, the film does make what I consider a unfortunate mistake and feels it needs to really do the whole origin thing instead of just jumping into the coolness of the character. I'm not sure why so many folks are obsessed with doing this especially with more adventure oriented affairs...did Indiana Jones' lack of a big back story not allow us to enjoy jumping right into the thick of it in the first film? Yet despite the inclusion of the origin, the film's director/writer decides to just kind of make up his own version as REH's is rather ambiguous as it is and ends up creating a rather typical character of an English mercenary with serious family issues that goes from a good man to a very bad one and when the Devil's reaper comes for him he fends him off and wanders around not fighting and killing in an attempt to save his seemingly already damned soul.
What surprised me about the film is that other than the bookended use of CG monsters and effects, for the most part the fantasy oriented film is very grounded in earthy realism and uses very practical and well done effects and stunts. The sets, character designs and costumes are also very impressive and add greatly to the dirty and gritty world of a people and land beat down by oppression. I'm not sure how often they mixed in sets and actual locations but it was shot well enough that I didn't notice any difference wherever it was. The action is also quite well done with the camera, though employing some instances of specifically edited sequences, for the most part the scenes were shot in a continuous flow and from a medium dolly or a floating but never jittery steadicam.
The film's biggest failing is that...well the story is just so damn lacking. It's not awful, it's just so INCREDIBLY predictable that each and every step, every action, every revelation will be seen coming down the street for miles and miles by any viewer even remotely paying attention. So in the end I was left with a very predictable and cliche riddled fantasy adventure...but a very well done one.