Solomon Kane Blu-ray Review
PictureConsidering its limited budget, Solomon Kane comes to Blu-ray looking very respectable indeed. Presented in 1080p High Definition in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the video rendition is pretty good, albeit with a few reservations. The detail level is generally very high, with only a few of the more effects-driven shots allowing this to drop off, and the mostly intentional grain only occasionally interfering with said detail. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum, and the aforementioned grain does appear to be intended with the nature of the material, although it is often depended on the scene in question, which does make me wonder whether it was all intentional. The colour scheme is obviously restricted, the movie painting a very dour picture of period England indeed (complete with oppressive rain that is rendered consistently well) although the colours we do get have depth and richness, the setting given an air of accuracy by the authentic tones on the authentic costumes. Black levels, dominant in this kind of feature, can be a little variable, but generally stand up to criticism, and overall this is a perfectly serviceable video presentation.
SoundThe audio accompaniment for the film bests the video presentation, this Blu-ray coming complete with a DTS-HD Master Audio track (the current flavour of the month) which really does work wonders with the material. Dialogue comes across coherently, which is sometimes of concern with some of these more high-content tracks, the words spoken - whether mumbled, whispered, or screamed and shouted - emanating clearly from the centre channel, with some assistance from the fronts. The effects are dominated by the sound of metal cutting flesh, although we get some punchy flint pistol shots, some initial heavy cannon fire and even a few explosions peppered throughout. Most notably, the dynamics across the surrounds are excellent, with the rears picking up on some of the least expected nuances and reinforcing what is a highly - and unexpectedly - immersive track. The score works well with the material, occasionally getting ahead of it (it can border on over-the-top) but generally doing a decent job, as is realised by mainly the frontal channels. Bass kicks in occasionally, even some of the rumbling hooves can get your LFE going, and is the cherry on a very aurally pleasing cake.
There's a brief video introduction by the Director, who talks for a little over a minute about this Blu-ray release and the features that it offers.
First up we get an Audio Commentary with the Director Michael J. Bassett, and the star James Purefoy. Quite jovial and enthusiastic in their narration, they both vie for centre-stage, Purefoy discussing the many injuries that the cast sustained during the filmmaking process, some of the ideas he had on set (some, which were not used, may have indeed worked better than the final cuts) and the work he did for the action scenes; with Bassett adding to his comments and offering up his own topics of budgetary restrictions, effects shots, body doubles and the filming schedule; generally giving us a comprehensive background into the production.
The second Commentary is with just the Director, and he talks about his childhood interest in fantasy books, his familiarity with the work, how he came to be making an origins movie, and the ideas behind his story. He also details the special effects and the background into most of the key scenes. Although some of the material is duplicated between this and the other Commentary (including several diatribes into how important it was to avoid any romantic connotations between Solomon and the girl he is trying to save - ironic considering you still feel like there's something there, partially because the actress who plays the role does not particularly look like a young girl) this one is definitely the track for all those budding young filmmakers out there who want to hear what relative newcomer Bassett did with a comparatively better budget than on his debut outings. The guy comes across as quite genuine to the art of filmmaking, and whilst he may not have proven himself to be a British Robert Rodriguez, his ideas are no less worthy.
Picture in Picture Track
The PiP option here allows us to compare the final film product (which plays in the background) with mostly black and white sketch storyboards which take up the lower right quadrant of the screen. These images really very accurately reflect the end result, and watching this track with either of the Commentaries would be advisable because they both refer to the original storyboards, and how they wanted to get the look 'just right'.
This 12 minute Featurette has all of the principal cast and crew members offering on-set video comments about the characters they play and the story the movie is telling, interposed with far too much final film footage and not enough Behind the Scenes stuff. There is far too much exposition here, pure promo stuff which eventually morphs into more background offerings, but then changes once again into just back-slapping mutual praise. Still, there are some nice snippets on offer here, nice glimpses and snippets about how they put this film together.
There are 4 Interviews: Producer Samuel Hadida and Paul Berrow (12 minutes); Director Michael J. Bassett (9 minutes); Star James Purefoy (8 minutes); Composer Klaus Badelt (7 minutes). The Producers interestingly take us through some of the Solomon Kane books, the character that the writer created, and what interested them about the project. They also reveal how they first approached Brotherhood of the Wolf's Christophe Gans to Direct, but then went with first-time Director Bassett when Gans was busy, and thereafter Bassett himself suggested changing it to an origin story. Bassett gets to talk about a lot of the stuff he previously covered in the Commentaries: his background and interest in fantasy, wanting to get into the genre and choosing to do his own origin treatment on the character who had never previously had an origin. Very enthusiastic, and definitely coming from a film-lovers' filmmaker point-of-view, his offering here is quite engaging. Purefoy relates Kane back to Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name, explaining what drew him to the role and what he brought to the project. Finally the Composer talks about the work he did on the score, and this would probably be the best offering on the disc, were it not for the fact that it not only uses lots of final film footage but also uses the same behind the scenes footage that can be seen in the Making Of.
The Making of the Fire Demon is a 2-minute montage of final film footage and overlayed effects shots, showing the various stages required to fully animate this CG character. It is quite an revealing, and consequently interesting, offering.
Rather a strange omission - despite Bassett introducing this ninety second scene as an unnecessary sequence in the story - I think this extra action sword-fight need not have been cut either.
A very odd 82 second offering which has about 30 seconds of final film footage and the remainder (i.e. less than a minute) is b-roll footage. Why not just call it b-roll and remove the unnecessary film footage?
We get a 73 second Slideshow of Artwork by Greg Staples, showing some of the lavish pictures he did of key shots from the movie. Actually quite a nice little offering that is worth checking out, it basically tells the entire story using 14 images.
Finally we get the movie's Theatrical Trailer as well as a couple of low-budget DTV Previews on disc startup.
VerdictLiterary character Solomon Kane makes his leap from the fantasy book realm to the Big Screen with a low-key, suitably dark and oppressive origin tale about his journey from damned soul to relentless avenging angel. This kind of tale of redemption may feel familiar to many, and the story itself may upset a few fans of the character - who find it hard to accept the newly fabricated elements - but it is a solid enough production which truly is a great example of what an enthusiastic young Director can do with £23 Million. Van Helsing's Stephen Sommers could take lessons from Michael J. Bassett when it comes to filmmaking. For its Blu-ray release we get decent video, superior audio and a thoroughly comprehensive set of extras, making this a worthy purchase not only for Kane fans (who would be advised to give it a chance), but also for those interested in how to make a decent-looking low-budget fantasy production. This may not break any boundaries, but it is a solid entry nonetheless, and bodes well as a set up for a potentially superior franchise.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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