Friday, December 23, 2011

Save Us, Solomon!

I recently watched the Solomon Kane movie, based on the character created by Robert E. Howard.
The movie itself was just okay – certainly better than the recent movie based on Howard’s more famous character, Conan – and it’s been a while since I read any Solomon Kane stories, so with my spotty memory it was difficult to say how well it adhered to the source material. 
(I’m going to throw out a guess, however, and say “Not very well.”)
The particular merits of the movie, however, are not really the topic of this post.  Rather, I wanted to use a particular scene as a jumping-off point for something else.
That being said, I do need to provide some background on the movie, and the movie version of the character.
Solomon was a man who had led a wicked, violent life, but after a supernatural encounter, he puts his murderous ways behind him and vows to live a life of peace.  However, circumstances are such that he soon finds himself faced with a challenge that forces him to set that vow aside, when the family of Puritans who had taken him in after he was robbed and violently assaulted by a band of thieves, are themselves placed in mortal jeopardy.
As the bloodthirsty minions of a demonic warrior menace the family, the assorted members of the family call out to Solomon to renounce his peaceful ways and save them.

Here’s the thing.  The family knows, based on the few things that Solomon has told them about his past, that he was once a formidable warrior, but they’ve never actually seen him in action.  He is, it turns out, once he decides to go back to the old ways, more than a match for the half-a-dozen or so armed men holding the family captive, but the family had no way of knowing that.
And yet they fully expected this unarmed pacifist to singlehandedly clean the collective clocks of the armed men.
I’ll admit that, frightened and desperate, the family would naturally latch onto even the thinnest, most frayed strand of hope, but it still seems to me that it was an awful lot to expect of him. 
I mean, honestly, as you’re standing there with a sword to your throat, and every other member of your family is in the same predicament, what, exactly, is it that you’re expecting your unarmed savior to do?
(And it turns out that – spoiler alert – even though he did end up dispatching all of the goons, Solomon wasn’t really up to the task of actually saving the family.)
In any case, as I was watching the scene, I was reminded of my recent reading of some collections of old (Late ‘30s – early ‘40s) Superman dailies from the syndicated comic strip.
The stories they contained were at a point in the development of the character at which the phrase “mild-mannered,” in reference to his Clark Kent persona, meant just that.  He wasn’t presented as being particularly cowardly, or nerdy as he would be in later years.  He was just a regular guy.
And yet, from the perspective of Lois Lane, Clark was the most craven milquetoast the world had ever seen.
It struck me as unfair on her part.
I mean, what, exactly, was the standard she was judging him against?  What were her expectations of him?
Basically, her thinking seemed to be, “That Clark Kent is such a wimp!  Why, he didn’t even try to singlehandedly dispatch those seven dangerous felons aiming machine guns at his head!”
Apparently, from her perspective, anyone who wasn’t ready to engage in some act of suicidal recklessness was cringing coward.
Then again, this is Lois Lane we’re talking about, a woman who engages in a dozen acts of suicidal recklessness before breakfast, so I guess it makes sense that she would equate being even remotely sensible with being a pussy…


Merlin T Wizard said...

That Lois. No wonder Superman had to teach her so many "lessons".

Taranaich said...

it was difficult to say how well it adhered to the source material.
(I’m going to throw out a guess, however, and say “Not very well.”)

Good instincts. Despite Michael J. Bassett's ideas, making Solomon Kane an evil man who is only forced into becoming a hero because if he doesn't his soul will go to hell is like making Batman a violent serial killer before he becomes a crimefighter, or Superman a world-destroying villain before he becomes a hero: complete and utter betrayal and inversion of the character. I love a good redemption story, but the story Bassett concocted for Kane is simply incompatible on any number of levels. My friend Miguel Martins sums it up well:

And I have my own thoughts too: