And finally, after much fretting and frowning, we’ve finished covering last year and can now begin properly chronicling the movies I’ve consumed in this new year of Our Lord, 2016. So let’s begin, starting off with something positive.
This probably will hurts my nerd street cred, but I have very little actual knowledge when it comes to Solomon Kane. Prior to the movie I was only aware of him in very vague terms, mainly thanks to being more familiar his creator, Robert E. Howard. In other words, I have no idea how good or bad the adaptation process in this case was, but if I would have to take a guess, I would wager the makers probably took the same kind of liberties with the source material like the classic 1982, Arnold Schwarzenegger helmed first Conan movie did. Which is to say, who cares a damn about accuracy when the movie is sheer distilled awesome.
As far as the story goes, it’s fairly generic as origin stories go. Solomon Kane’s a former mercenary haunted by his closer encounter with demons that he met while fighting abroad. After being basically being evicted from the convent where he has been licking his wounds, he ends up making a long journey back to his ancestral estate, from where he was basically banished from at an early age, and wouldn’t you just know it, evil is afoot and there are demonic things all over the place, in need of slaying. It’s set in the puritan times, so the supernatural horror elements works well within the confines of the setting and the story, and everything is appropriately dark and moody.
It’s actually a bit astonishing how good the movie ends up being despite containing so many things that normally I would consider to be massive cons. You have a villain, who is not only awful but also forgettable and entirely one-note, the third act and the whole ending for that matter both kinda fizzle to being entirely nonexistent climax, and for the most part the casting isn’t really much to write about. But despite some very clear faults, the movie is somehow able to get past them, ending up being a surprisingly good for what it is, basically a very silly, puritan fantasy action movie. It’s largely thanks to the efforts of James Purefoy, of Rome fame, why this movie turns out to be so highly entertaining. Purefoy seems to elevate by his sheer presence what would otherwise be a very mediocre, if not downright shoddy, paint by the numbers product with his charismatic performance. He absolutely charms you with his haunted rendition of Solomon Kane that you’re entirely willing to ignore all the subpar parts of the movie, like the kinda awful CGI.
Like I previously mentioned, the main villain sucks. There’s a lot of talk about how evil Malachi is throughout the story and you see his henchmen ravage the countryside more than enough, all which admittedly builds up Malachi reasonably well that you’re actually somewhat interested to see what happens when Solomon finally meets him, but once the climactic encounter occurs, it’s a complete letdown. Malachi doesn’t really have much personality beyond that of a stock evil sorcerer, and the final battle itself is horribly bland and anti-climactic. However, even though this all sounds bad, as odd it is, I don’t really mind it that much. Malachi’s lack of character depth and minimal screen time actually kinda works when you consider the source material’s background. Cheap pulp magazines aren’t exactly renowned for their stellar characterizations after all, it’s more about bombastic concepts and sensationalism. So in that sense, Malachi’s role is merely to serve as the mandatory token final boss and as such, he doesn’t really need to be anything beyond a one-dimensional evil wizard, which he does that entirely adequately. Being merely a cackling evil caricature has its uses occasionally, and this to me feels like one of those rare instance. There’s also the additional benefit of allowing the movie now spend even more time with Solomon, and witness as he slowly grows from a broken man who has made vows of non-violence into the righteous distiller of God’s wrath upon the wicked, which is one of the highlights in the movie. You almost feel bad when Solomon is forced to start kicking ass and taking names when the story forces him to renounce his vows and start killing people left and right.
Considering how initially I had entirely dismissed Solomon Kane as nothing but discount bin tier trash before I eventually wound up watching the movie, it’s shocking how good it actually ended up being. I really wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel made, but going by how poorly this did at the box office by not even reaching half of its original budget, the chances of that happening are probably very slim. One can always dream, though.