I had first heard of a Solomon Kane film some time in 2011 or so. Being a fan of the writings of Robert E. Howard, I was incredibly giddy for the chance to see yet another Howard character adapted for the cinema.
I was fortunate to find a copy of the film through YouTube, though I am
still distraught at the delay of a US DVD release. It has been
available since 2010, from what I gather, and if there's to be any
attention for the piece, or any hope of a sequel, the production folk
will naturally need to place their focus on distribution and
advertisement. So far, regarding the film audience within the United
States, they've failed to be effective with both.
While primarily being a fan of Conan, I eventually first discovered the character of Kane through the horror works of Howard. Having only read two stories featuring the character ("The Rattle of Bones" and "Hills of the Dead"), I must admit that I don't have the strongest feel for his center or what would comprise an ideal Kane tale. So, when approaching this movie I viewed it first as one who is familiar with the writing style of Howard, second as a fan of fantasy film, and third as someone who knows next to nothing about the titular character.
Viewing the film was a more than enjoyable experience, to say the least. I cannot say that it was the best film that I've ever seen, and I'll certainly hold the newest Conan film above it, but it has a heart based in Howard, a great central story, and a fantastic lead in James Purefoy. The design, the special effects, and the acting were all surprisingly astounding, to be honest. The movie featured an exceptional cast beyond its star. Thespians such as the late Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, and Max von Sydow accompanied Purefoy along his character's journey, enriching the film with their contributions.
In regard to the story, it is foremost a tale of redemption, as a scoundrel of a man, a murderer and a dishonorable sort, is forced to come to terms with the intention of Satan to claim his soul. The fear of this realization drives him into a life of uncomfortable peace as he seeks a way to save himself from everlasting damnation. He's again forced into conflict, though, when goodly Puritan folk who've offered him their care are torn apart by the evil forces of a dreaded figure known as Malachi. The plot then transitions into a quest to save an innocent, and in so doing the surrounding lands, so that Kane might be free from the evils of Hell and damnation.
There are many "Howardian" elements which litter the plot of this film. Aside from a rugged, heroic character who's quick to the blade but yet still contemplative, there are the hyper-violent fiends with whom the hero must contend, a wicked sorcerer skilled in an ancient and dark craft, and a seemingly insurmountable challenge from beyond the common understanding of man (something typically associated with H.P. Lovecraft, who was an influence and peer of Howard). Throughout the character's journey you feel as if you're experiencing a Howard tale, for the most part. By the story's end you discover that while this wasn't based on any one Kane tale, it is pretty much a definitive "Year one" story. From the events of this movie, the Solomon Kane which fans will recognize marches forth to combat the darkness with which readers are more familiar. Only in the sequels (if any are produced) will we finally get to see Kane in familiar circumstances.
I highly recommend this to anyone who can obtain a copy. It's an entertaining ride, and well worth the time spent watching it. If you're a Howard fan, it will feel familiar. If you're a Howard purist, you might take issue with the character progression, but never fear, as I've stated it's an origin story more than anything. Basically, watch it if you enjoy pure adventure and grand stories involving the somewhat common struggle of semi-good versus ultimate evil.