Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Solomon Kane - Dir. Michael J. Bassett

Michael Bassett’s film ‘Solomon Kane’ (based on the character of the same name created by Robert E. Howard) is a disappointing Fantasy Action-Adventure film, that despite having a few scenes of genius falls flat with its awkward pacing, poor characterisation and general dullness. Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is a mercenary of Queen Elizabeth’s army fighting in Africa, where he comes face-to-face with the Devil’s Reaper – a demon who collects the Devil’s debts i.e. souls – refusing to go to hell just yet, he evades the Reaper and starts a new life in an English monastery. With this new life, Solomon has left-behind his culture of violence and bloodshed and instead now embraces the values of peace and non-values. But once he is expelled from the monastery due to the fear of the Devil’s Reaper returning, he must travel back to his home in Devon and along the way he befriends a travelling family of puritans heading to the New World. On their journey through the British counties, the family is attacked, and their daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is abducted by the evil sorcerer Malachi’s army, which is lead on the front lines by the mysterious Masked Rider. Now a man of peace, Solomon must go back to his former life as a man of unrepentant violence and destruction to save Meredith.

Despite having great source material to work from, and build upon to create potentially an exciting and enduring medieval action-adventure film, the film fails in three key areas. The pacing of this film is terrible, which may have a lot to do with its incredibly short run time of only one hour and forty minutes (and this is most likely a consequence of the fact that they wish to turn this film into a trilogy). Constantly jumping between of drama and self-characterisation to that of action and muddy bloodshed, somewhat kills the excitement of the action sequences. Instead of keeping the audience on the edge of their seats frothing with the eagle-eyed anticipation, the film instead feels incredibly subdued and, this follows on the next piece of criticism, dull. Despite being touted as an ‘action-adventure’ film or in some circles an ‘action-epic’, ‘Solomon Kane’ is almost most certainly not. The action is mundane and dull, and is generally finished before you have the chance to admire the beauty of a decapitation. Finally, aside from Solomon himself, there is very little characterisation within this film. For example we know little and because of this, care little, about the young woman that Soloman sets out on his journey to save. And I imagine again the filmmaker would refer this criticism to the fact that there is most likely going to be a second film which will hopefully touch upon these aspects that this film surely missed.

It isn’t an entirely terrible film however. James Purefoy is gives a fantastic performance as Solomon, the mercenary who must decide whether or not to fall back on his conscience or his blade, and how his decisions will impact not just upon himself, but those around him as well. While respect, admiration, and acknowledgement must also go to Bassett and his crew as well, for creating vivid locations that beautifully reflects the period in which they are filming. At times, it is hard not to get carried away with admiring the beauty of the locations, shot composition and mise-en-scene at show here. Which certainly shows that a lot of time and effort has been placed into this film, unfortunately however that is not to say the same for the story and characters at hand. ‘Solomon Kane’ certainly had the potential to be something more than simply an ‘action-epic,’ however it seems that once again the lack of any real depth in the story and characters has resulted in Michael Bassett creating nothing more than a one-dimensional look at swordplay during the Medieval period.
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