In our sadly simplified age we tend to either have overtly, almost desperately, happy or overtly grimdark (and these are sold as "intelligent", and "real"), and I know far too many who see a dark tale of virtue and hope and cannot see the light at the end, as if it's been trained out.

I ended up watching the movie version of Solomon Kane due to the recommendation of Razorfist (and if you dig up the youtube video, the recommended book of collected stories is well worth every penny), and it was outstanding.

First, the downside.

Why does every writer end up going for some sort of origin story? Good Lord, the biggest way the writers failed the character of SK was in making an entire backstory to a character that, much like Howard's other characters, was sketched out by his actions, nature, and a few references where needed. John Wick, which another modern fault of "you killed my puppy, my last link to a normal life" as an excuse to get the ball rolling, doesn't waste time with a backstory but lets it drop in small crumbs along the way. You know John Wick is a badass because everyone's terrified of him and makes short, terrified references to his past, and Keanu Reeves embodies the role so well that that terror and respect are well justified.

Worse, you could have chopped almost the entire opening scene from the movie, referenced it when he was sent out of the abbey, maybe had a couple other sentences where needed along the way, and had a tighter movie.

Lastly, it hews too closely to the mantra of things shown having to be relevant, making what is supposed to be a twist utterly unsurprising, though it is handled deftly and there actually are still a few surprises they pull out of it.

This "origin story" aspect also results in some angst that you'd otherwise never see out of the Solomon riding away at the end of the movie, but that I'll mark as a quibble because it fits the story.

The good? There is a lot.

Yes, it is dark. It opens with a line how dark magic and witchcraft are spreading, and no good men stand to stop it - and perhaps a reason some sort of dark opener was needed but I'm still not sure even with that, that what they chose fits. But it is a dark story where people find hope and faith, not a grimdark story of nihilism and bloodshed where nothing means anything and virtue is a fool's game. Shortly after the opening scene we meet Kane, being kicked out of an Abbey where having forsworn violence, he has found refuge in a life of peace and prayer, to protect him from the forces of evil still hunting him for his soul.

This is a movie deeply steeped in faith. Kane unironically worships and prays, as do the pilgrims he meets. A main theme hammered by the bad guys is that God will not save them - and yet Kane is sent forth from the abbey because the abbot is told in a dream that Kane's purpose lies elsewhere, which sets him on the path to save the day. It also has the completely unironic scene where a rescued survivor of supernatural vengeance refusing to pray is what clues in Solomon Kane that their rescuee is no innocent victim.

The story also shows, without quite the over-the-top cheesiness of some scenes in Death Wish - either the original or the 2018 remake - the fools game that is pacifism, and it is befitting Solomon's stubbornness that it takes not once, but twice, leading to the deaths of some those he has joined travels with, to realize that to have peace, one must stop, and even wage war on, those who will enforce their will through blood.

In a nice touch, and nod to the pulp stories, he is at one point healed by a pagan healer, and chides her. She reminds him that it is her arts that saved him. Much like the character Howard wrote - who hated the magical arts but sometimes made use of those who used them to aid him.

In a moment of despair, thinking his hope of redemption is lost, he gives in to drink, is captured, and hung up for all to see, to take the hope out of everyone else. Yet he is shown that hope is not lost. It's something of a spoiler for those who are put off by such, but the symbolism involved, including his symbolic rebirth as a willing tool of God (uttering "Lord, give me strength") is again, unironic, and powerful. The only instance of a corrupt priest is played straight and utterly understandable in the context of the story and not as a damnation of religion and preachers as a whole.

This is a film about finding light in darkness, about standing up to evil and not simply being too good to face violence with equal or superior violence. It treats faith with respect, as integral to the people and their lives, a source of strength.