Sunday, June 12, 2011

Solomon Kane

If Solomon Kane by Michael J. Bassett had been a Solomon Kane rip-off, such Van Helsing by Stephen Sommers, I'd have guessed that Bassett was well qualified to make a solid adaptation...

... and I'd have been wrong, it would seem.

At least partly.

Unfortunately, screenwriter Bassett made a mess that the solid instincts of director Bassett couldn't quite clean up.

Now, Kane is my favorite Robert E. Howard fantasy character, Dark Agnes de Chastillon of Sword Woman having no fantasy elements in her completed Howard yarns, so I should be pretty set in my ways about how his character was handled. However, enough time had passed and enough reviews had set my expectations in order that I was ready to view this movie for what it is.

As a Kane adaptation, it's flat-out embarrassing, let's be clear on that. It adapts no Howard story, despite the stories being much richer and more dramatic than the story told here. It grafts an origin onto Kane that makes little sense. It turns him from a Puritan of complete faith into an Anglican (or a Catholic or some other vagary) in clothing made for him by Puritans, who is reformed from a life of piracy and evil by a visit from a manifestation of the Devil's reaper and dresses in Puritan clothing made for him by a Puritan family.

As a viewer prepared for this to fail as an adaptation, none of this would necessarily have mattered. Unfortunately, even it's own twist on the fate of Kane's soul would have been vastly more ironic and meaningful if it had left out the idea of Kane as a pirate and scoundrel. Ultimately, the idea of a hero who acts heroically out of a sense of a good greater than himself simply proved a challenge that writer Bassett wasn't courageous enough to try to tackle, so he lazily shackled him with "dark" history.

Until about the time of that revelation through the ending, though, it's a good movie. Like I said, I'd have guessed that Bassett, untethered from the lazy back story that challenges this movie, could have made a solid, entertaining Kane adaptation. The mood is well set, the acting is good all around, and the action is well-staged. Not to mention, it looks great.

I'm almost tempted to recommend it as a bad adaptation/solid ripoff. As the movie stands, with, as noted, a major revelation weakened by the needless desire to turn a hero into an antihero, presumably to be more "cool", and an anti-climatic final battle and an overlong final voice over monologue, I can't quite.

However, if you're still tempted, it's not a ride without any value.

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