The film version of Solomon Kane enters into the big fantasy/sword-and-sorcery fad of the 00s, following the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter films. This boom has also seen an interest in other Robert E. Howard properties with the revival of Conan in Conan the Barbarian (2011), as well as the promised animated Conan: Red Nails (2012) and announced adaptations of Brak Mak Morn and a remake of Red Sonja. Solomon Kane comes from British director Michael J. Bassett who previously made the WWI supernatural film Deathwatch (2002), the fine barehands survival drama Wilderness (2006) and the subsequent Silent Hill: Revelation (2012).
Michael J. Bassett creates a sword-and-sorcery film with a welcomely grim and hard edge. What makes Solomon Kane far stronger than many of its ilk is the fascination of the central character. I dont think James Purefoy is quite the incarnation of Solomon Kane that Robert E. Howard created he seems too aristocratic and handsomely well bred, not the burned-out and hollow character with piercing eyes that Howard distinctively describes. (He is also provided with a backstory he does not have in the Robert E. Howard stories about being the son of an aristocrat and the dark lord his brother). What does work is the strength of Solomon Kanes character arc the man who is damned by the sins he has committed, so much that the powers of darkness come hunting him, and decides to walk the path of Christian virtue so as to save his soul, only to realise he has to kill again to save others. There is a marvellous scene in the forest where the Overlord has a possessed soldier holding a knife at the boy (Patrick Hurd-Wood)s throat and Purefoy begs that he will do anything, whereupon the Overlord tells him to kill the soldier, Purefoy hesitates and the boys throat is slit and he realises that he has to break his oath and risk damnation in order to save the others.
Michael J. Bassett shoots most of the film in bare and frozen locations in the Czech Republic almost all of the film takes place during snow-laden wintertime. The soldier of faith aspect frequently gets sidelined in favour of an emphasis on action set-pieces. On the other hand, there are some undeniably effective scenes the aforementioned scene where James Purefoy must make his choice between saving lives and damnation; a scene where he encounters the strange priest Mackenzie Crook in the ruins of a church where Crook shows him a pit in the floor filled with zombies and introduces these as his flock and then throws James Purefoy in so that they can feast on him. Purefoy is also crucified at one point, which seems to be a standard fate to show the toughness of sword-and-sorcery heroes see Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Lee Horsley in The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982).
Other adaptations of Robert E. Howards works include:- Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984), both starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; Red Sonja (1985), featuring Brigitte Nielsen as Howards larger-than-life female warrior; the animated tv series Conan the Adventurer (1992) and Conan and the Young Warriors (1994); Kull the Conqueror (1997) starring Kevin Sorbo; the short-lived live-action German-made tv series Conan (1998) starring Ralph Moeller; and Conan the Barbarian (2011) starring Jason Momoa. A portrait of Howards life is dramatised in the romantic film The Whole Wide World (1996).