“Through all of my travels, all the things I’ve seen and all the things I’ve done, I have found my purpose. There was a time when the world was plunging into darkness. A time of witchcraft and sorcery, when no one stood against evil. That time… is over.” ~Solomon Kane (in the Solomon Kane movie)
A Movie Review by Tab Olsen
The Solomon Kane movie is a 2009 British-French-Czech fantasy adventure that was mostly shot in the Czech Republic. The story is based on the pulp fiction character Solomon Kane, created in 1928 by Robert E. Howard, the same man who created Conan the Barbarian. Howard’s characters were said to have given birth to the sword and sorcery genre. He’s even been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Solomon Kane appeared in “Weird Tales” magazine, starring in stories that combined swashbuckling action with supernatural horrors.
The Solomon Kane screenplay is an original storyline for the Kane character and was intended to be the first of a trilogy, although no more have been made. The plot follows a tale of redemption for Kane, from his life as a mercenary through the salvation of his soul. Although scary, dark, and violent, the movie has an overarching message of good triumphing over evil. It reminded me a lot of the Christian historical adventure film Beyond the Mask (2015) in which a British East India Trading Company assassin seeks to redeem his past.
The film opens in the year 1600. Solomon Kane is an English privateer working for Queen Elizabeth I fighting Muslims in North Africa. While there, Kane meets the Devil’s Reaper who says that he owes his soul to Satan and is bound for Hell. Barely escaping with his life, Kane retreats to the sanctuary of a monastery, vowing to live a peaceful lifestyle from now on to atone for his past sins and save his soul from damnation. Years later, turned out into the world, he sets off on a pilgrimage through the English countryside seeking to find his purpose in God’s plan.
James Purefoy is charismatic and convincing as the title character, and he gets a substantial 30-40 minutes of screentime at the beginning to establish himself as the brooding anti-hero. To prepare for his role, Purefoy read Howard’s entire collection of works as well as doing extensive research on Puritans. The supporting cast includes Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng, and Max von Sydow. The primary antagonist is a mysterious masked rider who uses mind control to get other men to do his evil bidding. You will find out who he really is at the end.
The movie is rated R for lots of violence including swordplay, stabbings, shootings, throat slashings, decapitations, and massacres. There is no nudity or sex, and Kane doesn’t even kiss the girl at the end. There isn’t much in the way of bad language, either, except for “hell” and “damn” used in a biblical sense. In fact, despite its violence and a couple of questionable lines of dialogue, this movie has a strong Christian message with plenty of religious references throughout.
Kane himself refers to God in a mostly reverential way, with prayers and appeals to the Lord for help, although it’s unclear exactly what type of Christian he is. He appears to start out as a Catholic, judging by the fact that his father was a Crusader who wishes for his son to become a priest, and then Kane is shown seeking refuge in a monastery. But later, Kane is befriended by a traveling Puritan family who invite him to go to the New World with them. They give him some Puritan clothes, and it seems like he comes to embrace Puritanism.
Although Kane has renounced violence, he soon realizes that demon-possessed men are roaming the land killing Christians and taking some for slaves. Trying to make peace with these guys just isn’t going to work. Kane cries out to God, asking what He wants from him. Since he’s an expert fighter, he decides to focus on using his skills and talents in a manner that he feels God would approve of: fighting evil in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds in defense of what’s good and right.
Kane’s outfit of a Puritan’s wide-brimmed buckle hat, black coat and cloak may remind you of Hugh Jackman’s monster-fighting Van Helsing (2004). However, the Van Helsing look was actually copied from Solomon Kane, as crafted by the Solomon Kane book author long before the costume designers of the Van Helsing movie were born.
Solomon Kane has a dark atmosphere and some parts of it are quite creepy. The early 17th century England setting is rainy and muddy, with highway robbers and the Black Death (watch for the weird-looking plague doctors!). It’s a time of sorcerers, demons, and witches, as well as a few zombies. There is even a painful scene in which Kane is crucified – because, after all, no self-respecting pulp writer ever let his hero off too easily. (So how do you think he gets out of that predicament?) Composer Klaus Badelt’s sweeping orchestral score is suitably epic, and adds a masterful touch to what might otherwise be considered just a B-movie.