There are two ways of watching Solomon Kane. Let me start with the way I did it: without knowing about it. This way I saw a classic “hero’s journey” film, with a strong redemption story turned into an action film, set in the middle ages. It had all the steps of the hero’s journey as explained by Joseph Campbell. Our hero sets out from a noble home in England, although he is more or less cast out. He encounters challenges and eventually wins a fight against his archenemy. The only surprise in the story is how he interacts with his father upon his return to the castle of his birth. When I say “only” I mean it: once the setup stage of the plot was over the story became predictable. The plot didn’t provide much excitement.
To look at it from another perspective the whole movie was about Solomon’s redemption. First, we see him as a cruel mercenary, who even calls himself the devil. Once he encounters the devil though and learns that his soul is bound for hell, he jumps into the water (i.e. baptizes himself) and next we see him in a monastery as a man of peace. When he is pushed out from there, because the monk believes he has a different destiny, he tries to stay peaceful and manages not to raise his arm to defend himself or even others. But when an innocent damsel gets into distress he cannot resist the urge and starts fighting again.
There is a lot of one sided conversation between Solomon and God. He keeps asking the divine about his destiny and keeps not receiving any verbal answer or even signs. Nevertheless he slowly discovers that because his talent is being the best fighter one can be, he has to use this talent for good. Solomon reveals himself as Jesus figure in at least four scenes.
- He asks God “is this what you want from me,” which is expressed similarly to Jesus doubts.
- He is crucified. Literally. With two other men on his side, who were crucified right before he was.
- On the cross he asks God to be help him. In exchange the damsel he thought of being dead happens to pass by. This reinvigorates him and sends him off to the next leg of his successful journey. God sent a sign to him at the right time, when he was at the bottom, even if he he was hanging several meter high.
- In the grand finale when he manages to kill of the golem-like figure sent by the Satan his figure is again in a cross like position, superimposed against the crumbling golem. The golem literally disappears through his body as light emanates through him. Redemption reached full circle there.
Based on what I wrote so far you would think this could be a mellow movie. Far from it. More than half of the screentime is filled with dirty men fighting in bleak weather, with swords, axes, occasional guns and other mean looking devices from the late 16th century. The imagery is quite similar to that of the Mordor region in the Lord of the Rings movies. It seemed there was a special emphasis put on making sure to show that almost everybody’s teeth was rotting, including the good guys’. I guess it wanted to be authentic down to the smallest detail.
The other way to check out this movie is knowing where it came from. The character was made up by Robert E. Howard and the first story with him appeared in 1928. This movie showed his origin story, while most of the stories are of his later adventures. Here are some explanatory lines from the corresponding Wikipedia article:
Solomon Kane is a sombre-looking man who wanders the world with no apparent goal other than to vanquish evil in all its forms….a somber and gloomy man of pale face and cold eyes, all of it shadowed by a slouch hat. He is dressed entirely in black and his weaponry consists of a rapier, a dagger, and a brace of flintlock pistols
I read somewhere that the creators of the movie plan two more sequels. I will probably check them out as I am curious whether and what kind of religious themes it will have, if any. And I didn’t mind the action either.
IMDB’s summary: Once a mercenary of Queen Elizabeth I fighting Spaniards in Africa, He met the Devil’s Reaper and discovered he was bound for hell! Barely escaping he soon renounced violence to atone for his past sins, seeking out redemption in a life of peace. That is until the followers of priest turned sorcerer Malachi kidnap a Puritan girl Meredith Crowthorn and brutally slaughter her family before his very own eyes (including butchering her beloved younger brother Edward who Solomon had befriended)! Forcing Solomon to take up arms and return to his violent ways once more to rescue her! In doing so means returning to his birthplace and facing his older brother Marcus who (in his youth) he accidentally left disfigured (and for dead), who now serves as merciless enforcer to Malachi.