Solomon Kane (film)
|Directed by||Michael J. Bassett|
|Written by||Michael J. Bassett|
|Music by||Klaus Badelt|
|Editing by||Andrew MacRitchie|
Solomon Kane is a 2009 epic action film written and directed by Michael J. Bassett based on the pulp magazine character Solomon Kane created in 1928 by Robert E. Howard. James Purefoy stars in the title role. Despite optioning the rights in 1997, filming did not begin until January 2008. The film is an origin story for the Kane character and intended to be the first of a trilogy. The plot follows a redemption story for Kane, from the end of his life as a privateer, through the salvation of his soul by rescuing a Puritan girl and the beginning of his life as the Puritan avenger of the source material. It was produced by a consortium of French, Czech, and British companies and mostly filmed in the Czech Republic. The film was first shown at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. It went on general release in France, Spain, and the UK over the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. Reception was generally favourable, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 65% following the UK/US release; the film's atmosphere and Purefoy's acting attracted the most acclaim.
The film opens in North Africa, 1600, with the English mercenary Solomon Kane as he leads his ship's crew into battle against the Ottoman occupiers of a fortress town. After defeating the defenders, Kane and his men raid the fortress, where most of the crew is killed by demons. Kane fights his way to the throne room, but, before he can loot the riches, he is confronted by a demon that tells him his soul is forfeit to Satan. Solomon rejects his fate and jumps out a window. Following this encounter, Solomon returns to England and finds sanctuary in a monastery. After a prophetic dream, the abbot apologetically expels Kane, and Kane travels by foot to his ancestral estate, from which he had been expelled in his youth after defying his father. Along the way, he is ambushed by robbers who mock his vow of pacifism and leave him for dead. He is found and treated by the Crowthorns, a family of Puritans traveling west to the New World. When the Crowthorns are slaughtered by corrupted followers of the evil sorcerer Malachi, Kane renounces his vows and swears to avenge their deaths and rescue Meredith Crowthorn, who has been marked by a witch and kidnapped by the Masked Rider, Malachi's lieutenant.
Kane battles Malachi's followers across the countryside, rescuing many captives but not finding Meredith. On his journey, he meets a deranged priest who explains Malachi's followers are taking the weaker survivors of their raids as slaves and corrupting the strong into soldiers. The priest tries to feed Kane to his parishioners, who have become ghouls, but Kane escapes, only to face the robbers who attacked him earlier, now corrupted servants of Malachi. He kills two of the robbers and interrogates the survivor, who tells Solomon that Meredith is dead. Kane throws the robber to the ghouls, and, believing his quest for redemption has failed, drinks to excess at a country inn. Former shipmates recognise him and try to recruit him as a leader of a resistance against Malachi, but Kane refuses. Malachi's followers attack the inn at dawn and crucify the leaders of the resistance, including Kane. As Kane hangs on the cross, Meredith cries out his name from her cage in the back of the raiders' wagon; Kane realises that he still has a chance to save her and pulls himself free. Before Malachi's remaining men can finish him, they are killed by survivors of the resistance, who take Kane to safety. Kane is healed by an old witch and is soon anxious to confront the raiders.
The resistance explain Malachi's background as a former healer who made a bargain with the Devil, and reveal that he now lives in Kane's ancestral home. Kane leads them into the castle via an underground passage, and, as the resistance fights Malachi's soldiers, Kane heads for the dungeons and frees many of the captives. There he finds not Meredith but his father, who explains that the Masked Rider is Kane's older brother Marcus, whom Kane thought he had accidentally killed after his banishment. Instead, Marcus was critically injured, and, when healers failed to revive him, his father turned to Malachi. Disfigured and turned to Malachi's will, Marcus becomes the Masked Rider. Solomon reluctantly acquiesces to his father's request and kills him, then heads to the throne room to confront Malachi. There, Kane finds Meredith in a cage, and as she warns him of a trap, Marcus stabs him in the back. Kane tries to reason with Marcus, but they engage in a duel; Kane wins after setting Marcus on fire and decapitating him. Malachi uses Meredith's blood to release a demon sent to claim Kane's soul, but Kane shoots Malachi dead and sacrifices himself to close the portal. Meredith believes Kane to be dead, but he awakens and explains that he has finally redeemed his soul. Kane reunites Meredith with her remaining family and buries his father and brother. In a final voice-over, he declares his intention to roam the Earth and oppose the forces of darkness.
- James Purefoy as Solomon Kane
- Max von Sydow as Josiah Kane
- Rachel Hurd-Wood as Meredith Crowthorn
- Mackenzie Crook as Father Michael
- Pete Postlethwaite as William Crowthorn
- Ian Whyte as The Devil's Reaper
- Alice Krige as Katherine Crowthorn
- Ben Steel as Fletcher
- Anthony Wilks as Edward Crowthorn
- Jason Flemyng as Malachi
- Samuel Roukin as Marcus Kane
- Philip Winchester as Telford
Wandering Star optioned the film and book publishing rights to Solomon Kane in 1997 from the Robert E Howard Estate. In 2001, it was announced that Christopher Lambert was offered the role of Kane and was seriously "considering it as it's a very compelling part". At this point Don Murphy was a producer on the film, with Samuel Hadida of Davis Film and Paul Berrow and Michael Berrow of Wandering Star Pictures, and was attempting to set up the film with New Line Cinema. Murphy left the project in 2003 under a cloud when the negotiations fell apart with New Line. Things went quiet for a while during which time several scripts were developed around the African adventures of Solomon Kane from the classic text.
Then Michael J Basset was hired as writer and director of the film, with a brief to write an origin story based loosely on the Howard poems and classic text, and in August 2006 he finished writing the script. Finally on 1 October 2007, it was announced that James Purefoy was cast as the lead.
Principal photography began in Prague on 14 January 2008 and was scheduled for a 12 week shoot. Director Bassett says of James Purefoy that he "is a delight to work with; he is giving his heart and soul to this. He's in brilliant physical shape and his sword fighting is just brilliant to behold and he's finding depth and sophistication within the character in ways I really hoped he would". As of the end of February 2008[update], sets were still being built for the later part of the production, and Max Von Sydow and Mackenzie Crook had yet to begin shooting. Jan Cileček, a Czech artist produced a number of sculptures for the film and there are some photographs available on his website.
An article in the Daily Mail states that during the production Purefoy was injured while staging a sword fight with a stuntman, resulting in his receiving five stitches to the forehead. The article also mentions that Bassett is into extreme measures "so his cast and crew have been working in the cold, the rain, and as much mud as possible".
On 16 April 2008, Michael Bassett posted a message on his blog saying "Principal photography is completed on Kane. Now for the long-haul of post-production to get it all into shape". He also says that everything is set up for the future parts of the trilogy, which "will tap more completely into Howard's original stories". Finally he mentioned that "the final scenes of the film were shot in England on the North Devon coast. It was all done on a private estate which used to belong to the real Sir Richard Grenville".
On 7 April 2009, Bassett announced that production of the film is complete. On 23 October 2009, Bassett announced on his blog that "Kane is slowly gearing up for its first set of release dates at the end of this year and early 2010".
According to Paradox Entertainment CEO Fredrik Malmberg, the film's budget was $40 million.
Solomon Kane's world premiere was on 16 September 2009 at the Toronto Film Festival. The film was featured at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, which Basset and Purefoy both attended. It was released in France on 23 December 2009. It was released in Spain on 1 January 2010. The United Kingdom theatrical release was on 19 February 2010; in its first week it opened at seventh place in the UK top ten with a weekend gross of £611,886 across 259 cinemas.
The DVD was released in the UK on 28 June 2010. It was the best selling DVD in week commencing 5 July 2010. The film was released on Blu-ray to the home market in North America on 16 July 2013 by Starz/Anchor Bay.
According to Bassett's blog, the North American wide release of the film was delayed due to legal reasons. The film was eventually released on 28 September 2012 in North America.
It was announced on 9 March 2012 that the film would have its Southeast US Regional Premiere as the Opening Night film of ActionFest 2012 on 12 April 2012. This marks the second year in a row that a film starring James Purefoy and with sword and stunt coordination by Richard Ryan opened ActionFest.
Empire rated the film at 3/5 stars, complimenting writer-director Michael J. Bassett as handling the film "with the same level of commitment Peter Jackson brought to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the darker moments of which are an obvious influence on Bassett's film". The review says of the film as a whole: "For less than the effects budget of this year's other sword 'n' sorcery adventures, Percy Jackson and Clash Of The Titans, Bassett has delivered a dark-as-balls Highlander for the 21st century, played with such conviction it's hard not to be swept along".
Total Film also rated the film at 3/5 stars with the conclusion: "A brutal fusion of angst and action, this mini-epic gives the sword-and-sorcery genre a bleak, brusque new life. Watch it for some terrific limbchopping and a mighty turn by James Purefoy". Sister magazine SFX rated the film at 4/5 stars. The review describes the location work as one of the films "great strengths", comparing the film to Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan's Claw, "a landscape alive with the sense of supernatural forces gathering beneath the frost and the empty fields". Purefoy is also acclaimed, with "a sense of huge faultiness coiling within him [which] makes for a genuinely intriguing hero". The only fault is the final confrontation, where the "clashingly mainstream touch" of a CGI demon "[punctures] the movie's careful atmosphere of pre-Enlightenment dread".
Variety gave the film a negative review, stating that the film "just isn't much fun". Bassett's direction is described as being handled "confidently if without much flair" while Purefoy "gamely endures heavy exertion throughout; it's not his fault the script lends his character might and a mission but little personality".
The Guardian also gave the film 3/5 stars. Its conclusion was mixed, stating: "There's plenty that's good here: a serious tone, steady pacing, muddy and bloody scenery and a convincing turn by Purefoy in his own west country accent. But Kane is an ill fit into the origins tale template; it's a story with few surprises".
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- "'23rd October' - Bassett's blog". 2009-10-23. Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- Punter, Jennie (21 July 2009). "'Jennifer's Body' to bow at Toronto". Variety. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
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- Barton, Steve (2010-01-28). "New Making-of Solomon Kane Featurette Available". DreadCentral. Retrieved 2013-10-10.
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- "DVD Sales Chart week commencing: Monday 05 July 2010". British Video Association. 2010-07-05. Archived from the original on 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
- Bassett, Michael (2011-09-17). "Solomon Kane on Netflix". Michael Bassett's blog. Archived from the original on 2012-04-21. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
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- Hughes, David. "Solomon Kane review". Empire. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
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- Floyd, Nigel (2010-02-18). "Solomon Kane". Time Out. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
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