Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Solomon Kane Disappointment

Yet another review of the Solomon Kane movie: French Howardist Miguel Martins weighs in and it's not pretty. M. Martins has written a very insightful post both on the film, which he saw after its release in France late last year, and on the character of Solomon Kane. Most damning of all his criticisms is not that Solomon Kane isn't true to Howard's texts -- though that'd be enough for me -- but that it's not a particularly good movie even in its own right. I wish I could say I'm surprised.

What is it about Robert E. Howard that makes Hollywood want to tell its own stories with his characters rather presenting the ones he himself wrote? I'm sure there are other authors whose works have repeatedly suffered as much as Howard's have but I'm hard pressed to think of any at the moment.

23 comments:

  1. Have there been a lot of attempts to make Gor movies? I remember a really bad Italian-produced one with Jack Palance I watched with some friends years ago but have there been others?

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  2. They basically purchased the name "Solomon Kane" and the vague look from the book covers, and that is were the similarity ends -- from reading director's comments.

    What bothers me most is does the "Solomon Kane" IP hold value to people other than the ones who have read the short stories? What they created sounds repellent to the fans of the fiction. It sounds like they wanted to make a Stephen Sommers' "Van Helsing" but that character was already bastardized.

    What really sickens me is that I had to put the awful Arnold/Conan aside before I "discovered" Howard's work. I remember saying to a friend that I was going to try to read Howard's Conan stories for some dumb fun. He rightfully chided me saying forget that Hollywood crap and that I was about to read an awesome series of stories.

    Solomon Kane is a cool fringe Howard character and a crap film will dissuade people from even attempting to read these brilliant short works of fiction.

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  3. Comic book movies go through this all the time, as have Tarzan movies.

    I suspect we'll be having a similar conversation when John Carter comes out, though I hope not.

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  4. TJ wrote: “What bothers me most is does the ‘Solomon Kane’ IP hold value to people other than the ones who have read the short stories?

    Yeah. This is the real mystery. Why bother with the hassle of a license? It makes me think that the people who green-light movies just have a “based on a book (any book)” tick-box that increases the likelihood of the deal happening.

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  5. I'm going to go with Runokobold. There are more Lovecraft movies, and none of them (except for a few small budget "fan" productions) are true to his work.

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  6. To the first poster who brought up Philip K. Dick--really? I know there are probably a bit more than Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly...but I just listed 4 really good movies. Things were lost and changed during the adaptations, but if all book<->movie adaptations were on that kind of level, I don't think we'd have much to complain about.

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  7. I don't get the hate for the first Conan movie. OK, the second one was an abortion, but I think the first one was not only a great fantasy movie, but true enough to Howard. Just the movie ending with Conan older and sitting grimly on his throne was about as true as you can get.

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  8. Verhaden: Amen! And yes, all those were great films despite the changes.

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  9. Prepare yourselves gentlemen. Ron Howard is signed to direct a film based on The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft.

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  10. As a french small-time howardian, I agree wholeheartedly with Martins. The flick can't even compare to the badwrongfunny scoobidooesque Van Helsing. It's just a boredom-filled static piece of fx-mud. It screams "I'm more Goth than you" in a depressing high-pitched voice.

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  11. I agree that I enjoy the 1st conan film, even if it is just a vestige of the original character. The soundtrack is truly great as well. The second one was a bad, bad joke. When will they learn?

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  12. @ Verhaden and Brunomac:

    While those movies may have been great movies - were they really true to the stories they were re-creating, and PKD?

    The strongest contender would have to be Scanner, but it lost something in the translation IMHO.

    Total Recal I think comes closest, because it has a real OMFG the whole world has just turned inside out for the protagonist moment.

    Bladerunner is almost indistinguishable from the book, although veiled implications that Deckard may be a replicant is definitely a nod in the right direction. Readers of the book will remember a key moment that turns everything inside out and upside down for Deckard.

    The original Matrix movie, although not based on any PKD works, was definitely channelling him, and is arguably further along the PKD spectrum than PKD adaptations.

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  13. Ooops...

    "Bladerunner is almost indistinguishable from the book"

    should read...

    "Bladerunner is almost unrecognizable when compared to the source"

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  14. The Hollywood interpretations of 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' are probably further from the original books.

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  15. Hollyweird's arrogant assumption that they can do "better" than a given author disgusts me. No wonder they are hurting!

    BTW, the second author to pop in my mind for being mutilated regularly (after Lovecraft) was H. Rider Haggard.

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  16. Hp Lovecraft.

    Although the silent version of Call of Cthulhu is a real gem. I watched it for the first time last night and both me and my girlfriend were seriously creeped out by it!

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  17. A theme of Isaac Asimov's 'Robot' short stories is the 'Frankenstein complex': people's ignorant assumption that robots will go crazy and kill everyone. Apparently the movie 'I, Robot' is about robots going crazy and killing everyone.

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  18. anarchist: well technically, the robots don't go crazy and kill everyone. They actually enforce an authoritarian police state, because they come to the conclusion that humans can't be trusted not to commit crimes, cause accidents or start wars. Therefore, the only way they can authentically follow the first law (No machine may harm humanity, or through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm) is to actively prevent humans from doing harm to others.

    It's actually highly similar to Asimov's own "The Evitable Conflict," which comes to the same conclusion.

    I mean, the film's still an affront to Asimov (though it's due to studio execs wanting to hijack Asimov's lit cred and sticking his name onto a completely different story, rather than starting with the stories and warping them), but it's pretty darn intelligent as action films go.

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  19. "Have there been a lot of attempts to make Gor movies? I remember a really bad Italian-produced one with Jack Palance I watched with some friends years ago but have there been others?"
    Unfortunatly it wasnt an italian production, but american's one, and I had to watch it in english... as far as I know there's a sequel (something like "return to gor").
    I haven't seen the SK movie yet (and doubt it will be released in Italy), but watching the trailer it seems more like "Van Helsing II - the Revenge" rather than a Howard book adapation... on the contrary, John Milius Conan was able to maintain the feeling while not adhering fully (indeed not adhering almost at all) to the official storyline.

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  20. "Have there been a lot of attempts to make Gor movies? I remember a really bad Italian-produced one with Jack Palance I watched with some friends years ago but have there been others?"

    Outlaw of Gor. Maybe the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode ever, and a mainstay at our place. The MST3KL crew won a Peabody award for their parody skills on this one.

    And I could have taken that whole review in stride until I came to the point where they announced the Solomon Kane "movie novelization" by...Ramsey Campbell? Can they be serious? If so, Campbell is dead to me now. To think that such a once-singular voice in horror could sink to such lows.

    The rationale? I don't care. Maybe he has a $1000/day coke habit. Whatever. This is not, under any circumstances, forgivable.

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