As my third anniversary writing for Geek fast approaches, it would appear that Solomon Kane is the first film I’ve ever reviewed twice (the first review can be found here), which, in itself, has proved to be an interesting challenge.
Whenever I find myself reviewing a film, I can get incredibly caught up in my own head about judging a film based on the first emotional reaction I have to it, as circumstance can make all the difference to how it’s perceived, such as a bad day at work, good news, the weather, or even alcohol. Yet, there it is afterwards in print, for the whole world to see.
So, along comes Solomon Kane again, a film that I praised so highly at the start of the year. It also proved to be an inspiration to me, after a small discussion took place in the comments section about 80s sword and sorcery movies, but more on that soon. And how has the film faired after a second viewing? Outstandingly, I’m relieved to say.
I now officially love Solomon Kane, so here are ten good reasons why I think you might too:
Purefoy, in my opinion, is still far too underappreciated. Sometimes I seem to develop an affinity for actors before I’ve even seen them in that much on screen. For example, when I heard that Viggo Mortensen had been cast as Strider, I was convinced he’d be perfect, despite mostly going on his small part in the incredible Walkenfest that is The Prophecy. (I’d prefer not to mention Daylight or G.I. Jane.)
So when casting for a new Bond came around, the same thing happened with my support for James Purefoy, this time based on a small part in A Knight’s Tale (and forgetting Resident Evil). He didn’t get the role that time around, but I’m still hopeful for the future.
In Kane he is every bit the grizzled hero, managing to embody the vicious and the heroic in equal measure. Purefoy shares a commentary with the director on the DVD, as well as appearing on a ‘making of’ feature/being interviewed alone, in all of which he comes across as incredibly likeable and dedicated to his character. The enthusiasm he has for Kane is obvious, so when he talks about making more of the films, I can’t help but agree that it should happen.
Going back to the 80s again (as is so often my way), movies certainly never lacked for a decent theme tune. John Williams aside, just take a moment to think about films like Willow, The Last Starfighter and, of course, Hawk The Slayer, and there was always a rousing theme tune behind them, something to get the blood pumping and to convey an epic and heroic journey.
A hero’s theme tune is sorely lacking from a lot of contemporary films. Just look at the poor X-Men, who found themselves is a respectable film adaptation, but stripped of the cartoon TV series’ catchy intro music. In Solomon Kane, Klaus Badelt redresses the balance, presumably drawing on his previous experience scoring Pirates of The Caribbean (no harm in mentioning Equilibrium here either), giving the entire film exactly what it needed.
Badelt gets his own six and a half minute feature on the DVD, in which he nicely ties in to my above point by saying that he looked at Purefoy’s performance and eyes to get most of his inspiration for the music.
Whenever a film has a more modest budget, it’s important to make sure that it looks as realistic as possible, so location scouting and set building can really make or break how a film is perceived. What amazed me about Kane the second time around is how fantastic it looks from start to finish (one CGI beastie excluded), making the whole period feel so much richer.
It helps that director Michael J. Bassett chose to film as much as possible outdoors, regardless of the temperature, resulting in Purefoy telling how the combination of rain on a freezing cold day actually froze him to the spot, mid-movement, during the climatic final battle.
There can never be enough monsters in a fantasy movie for me, be they the Uruk-hai and Orcses in The Lord Of The Rings, to the squealing, slug headed Slayers from Krull. Director Bassett utilizes his background in horror movies to deliver us a masked rider, some demonic zombie types and even, in one scene, a witch that might just as well have worn an ‘I love Evil Dead‘ t-shirt such was its obvious homage to Sam Raimi.
There are more monsters than mentioned above in the film, so you never can tell what Kane will encounter next on his journey, but having seen a glimpse of what could lie in store for future films, consider me hooked.
The emotive impact
Unusually for a film of its type, Solomon manages to produce a couple of especially tense and threatening scenes. I was worried about one scene in particular losing its impact the second time around, or perhaps from not being seen on a cinema screen, but it remained as brutal as I remembered.
If anything, upon the second viewing I was more invested from the start, so found myself getting pre-emptively excited about some scenes before they happened and rooting for Kane from the start, which isn’t, perhaps, ideal when he’s a cold blooded murderer to begin with.
That this is only Bassett’s third feature film is quite impressive. I’ve seen both Wilderness and Deathwatch that came before, enjoying both despite some flaws, but the leap from those two productions to Kane is quite substantial. His direction seems so assured now that his love for the material has clearly taken his work to the next level, as the larger cast, more epic scale adventure, action and spectacle (including the CGI work), made me go back to check he hadn’t directed more films.
According to IMDB, his next film will be The Unblinking Eye and stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan. While I’m on the subject of Morgan, though, I really can’t recommend The Losers enough after it vanished without a trace at the cinemas, a travesty when the film was so much fun and when the woeful Prince Of Persia made infinitely more money. Since both Bassett and Morgan seem to be on the rise I can’t wait to see how the film turns out.
The special features
Now that’s always a good reason to own a DVD, especially anything with substantial effects or make up, and there is plenty of insight on the disc, even if some are a little short and fragmented.
There’s the commentary with Bassett and Purefoy, a standalone commentary from Bassett, as well as a trailer, video introduction by Michael J Bassett, The Making Of Solomon Kane and Special Effects: The Creation Of The Fire Demon features, artworks by Greg Staples, interviews with producers Samuel Hadida and Paul Berrow, director Michael J Bassett, actor James Purefoy and composer Klaus Badelt, a deleted scene: Cave Fight and a Montage Clip, and who doesn’t love a montage?
The re-watch value
In desperation to get this review done on time (which failed in the end due to some life hiccups), I ended up putting it on late on a Sunday night, which meant my better half lasted all of ten minutes before passing out. Upon waking up half an hour later, she apologised and said she really wanted to see it properly from the start, so would I mind going back. In my keenness to finally share the film with someone, I did exactly that, but what amazed me was how easy it was to watch the beginning again and how quickly the time passed. I even spotted a minor detail I’d missed only half an hour before.
Back when I saw it at the cinema, I was keen to show it to a lot of my friends, but the rare occurrence above means that I’ll no doubt be happy to watch it repeatedly for years to come. If I owned a cinema you could all come round tonight, but alas, maybe one day.
Oh, yes indeed. With the potentially spectacular The Expendables out in a month (at long last), there’s no better time to celebrate a love of 80s-style cinematic violence, and Kane seems to ooze with it. In the ‘Cave Fight’ deleted scene, Bassett reveals that he loved the scene but couldn’t find a way to work it into the narrative, and more’s the pity. It’s shown during the stylised end credits, but is a rarity amongst deleted scenes, one which is sadly missing from the main film.
Still, there’s plenty of limb loppage and sword swinging in the final edit, so I can’t really complain.
I want more
Yes, I know it’s hardly a critical point, but allow me a little moment of selfishness. There simply aren’t enough films like this being made, so unless we support them we are in danger of having our summers ruined by substandard blockbusters, while all the interesting films fall by the wayside. As one of our readers, capt_1tens0, stated at the end of my cinematic review, “I’d much rather watch 100 Solomon Kanes over most of the tepid action/sci-fi/fantasy shit coming out of Hollywood.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
Film:Disc: Solomon Kane is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.