Solomon Kane is a perfect example of how technological innovation in cinema benefits not just the filmmaker, but the audience, as well.
Though it has sat on the shelf without sufficient distribution for nearly three years, Solomon Kaneis finally being released to audience,s thanks to the rising popularity of VOD services. A huge coup for indie film fans who may not live near theaters that choose to show smaller titles, VOD is rapidly expanding the audience size for less well-known filmmakers or films that may not have wide appeal. Though it has its problems, Solomon Kane is a welcome break from the mindless drivel that has poured out of Hollywood for years.
At the turn of the 17th century, magic and sorcery rule the land and the Devil’s dark cloud hangs heavy. Unconcerned with these matters, Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is busy raiding kingdoms and villages for riches, destroying anyone and anything that stands in his way. He is a brutal, unmerciful killer who is willing to put his own men in harm’s way if it means getting what he wants. When he comes face to face with the Devil’s Reaper, Solomon is told his soul has been promised to the Devil. He refuses to be taken to Hell and escapes, taking refuge in a monastery and renouncing his violent and evil life.
A year later, Solomon is told he can no longer stay with the monks and must seek his redemption elsewhere. On his journey, he crosses paths with a pilgrim named William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite) and his family. After a vicious mugging, the Crowthorns take Solomon in and, with the help of William’s daughter, Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood), he is able to recuperate. Soon, though, his newfound family is torn apart by a pack of raiders who are doing the bidding for Malachi (Jason Flemyng), a sorcerer who is also the Devil’s servant. When Meredith is captured and the Crowthorns are all slaughtered, Solomon vows to rescue her from the clutches of evil, despite the army of the possessed that is taking over the land.
Writer/director Michael J. Bassett is clearly passionate about his film. Despite a budget that is likely a quarter of most Hollywood blockbusters, Solomon Kane manages to tell an engaging story with a very layered mythology while also being visually impressive. When you watch The Avengers, there is no question Joss Whedon is having a blast making the movie he has wanted to make since he was a child. The same enthusiasm comes across in Bassett’s film, though his financial constraints mean the visual effects are greatly inferior and severely limited.
Bassett overcomes these limitations by opting for as many practical effects as possible, a decision that actually enhances the film’s impact on the viewing experience. No amount of makeup or prosthetics can make a 50-foot tall creature of the Devil convincing, so CGI (however poor) is necessary. But everything else in Solomon Kane, from Malachi’s incredibly detailed visage to the raiders’ soulless appearances, is handled with old-school approaches that have worked for filmmakers for nearly 100 years.
In addition to the wonderful production design, Bassett and cinematographer Dan Laustsen beautifully capture the world of the film with sweeping shots and creative movement. In a film that is heavy with action, mostly well-choreographed sword fights, it is necessary to show as much of the character interaction as possible. Bassett eschews the quick-cutting, frenetic style that is so popular with directors and editors these days, and instead chooses to sufficiently distance the camera from the fights so as to include as much fore- and background action as possible. Bassett also steps out of the typically bland box of action movies directors and actually puts thought and meaning behind his use of cinematography, never showing off but never being complacent.
Solomon Kane is a perfect example of how technological innovation in cinema benefits not just the filmmaker, but the audience, as well. Without VOD, viewers probably would not be able to watch a unique and highly stylized film like Solomon Kane, which would be a shame, because Bassett’s love for his work comes clearly comes across, and that is something rarely seen in mainstream movies. | Matthew Newlin