Published on June 13th, 2011 | by Chris6
Gods and Generals (2003/2011, Blu Ray Director’s Cut)
I am likely in the minority here, when I say I enjoyed Gods and Generals so much more than its predecessor and sequel, Gettysburg. Sure it has its problems, but to me, its a far better movie, in many aspects. Caveat: My knowledge of Civil War history is not exactly deep (you could wade out into it) so I will not touch on the historical accuracy of any part of the movie.
Gods and Generals follows the Civil War from before its beginnings, nearly up to the battle of Gettysburg. Actually, it seems to almost be more of a biopic of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson than anything. The majority of the film focuses on him and his "Stonewall" brigade, and the film more-or-less ends with his death. It is highly biased in this regard, and if you've got any prejudices against this, well, then you're going to be disappointed. Going in I expected this, and was actually somewhat surprised and pleased with the outcome here. (See my later comment regarding the "Gods" aspect of the title!)
The acting. That's more like it. I'm not sure if it was direction or what that made the difference here, but Robert Duvall absolutely did not disappoint me as Gen. Robert E. Lee. He made Martin Sheen's effort in Gettysburg look amateurish, (sorry!).... And Stephen Lang was stellar as Gen. Jackson. I didn't even recognize Bruce Boxleitner under that beard as Gen. Longstreet, although the character's role here was minor compared to in Gettysburg. Speaking of facial hair (lol) kudos for the makeup team for at least making everyone look "au natural" more so than the last go round!
I think the pacing was superior here as well. Firstly it was clearly delineated into it's five separate segments, which I'm assuming correlated to how it was shown on television. I also didn't feel like there were any scenes that were overly drawn out like in Gettysburg. When you're talking about 4+ hours of screen time, this is important. I will have to go back and view Gettysburg again to compare this to it.
You'll recognize a lot of faces returning from Gettysburg here as well, including Jeff Daniels as Col. Chamberlain, C. Thomas Howell as the younger Chamberlain, William Morgan Shepard as Gen. Trimble, Kevin Conway as Sgt. Kilrain, among others. All of whom, along with the entire supporting cast this time, really shined. I didn't find myself rolling my eyes at any of the "extras" like I did in Gettysburg, either. That I remember anyway.
I am confused, though, at the inclusion of the strange subplot involving John Wilkes Booth. I kept expecting the picture to follow through all the way to this subplot's logical conclusion, but it never did. I'm not sure why it was included at all, to be honest. It really does nothing except show his disdain for the Union and his hatred for Pres. Lincoln, and without concluding that, it makes no sense to me at all.
I also have a theory on why this, and Gettysburg, seem to be so focused on, and in a lot of ways "sympathetic" towards the Confederacy's cause. Keep in mind that both of these movies/mini-series were produced by and for one of Atlanta's favorite sons, Ted Turner for his networks. Is this somehow indicative of his own personal politics? I don't know, its just a theory. I hope that its not the case. He does have cameos in both films, and his appearance here was almost self-serving.
As a mini-biopic of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Gods and Generals really is a success. The "Gods" bit referring, likely, to the legend that surrounds both Jackson and Lee in the history of the Civil War. In the end, though, they prove to be only ordinary men.
As for the Blu Ray, I'm chalking up the superior picture and sound to the technology available at the time of production. It's really a wonderful presentation. The sound is excellent, with the surround channels kicking in as those slugs whiz by, and the LFE's hammering home as the cannons fire. The picture is equally superior, (and in full scope BTW), but you really can't compare the two movies in this respect. I did notice one scene (but only one) with the annoying "low light noise" problem.
I'm not sure I recommend this one as much as a school history lesson, as it is significantly more violent and bloody in parts. Not many, but the ones that are show quite a bit, that it could prove problematic.
So, yeah, I'm going a full on 8/10 here. As an overall package I felt this to be the superior of the two.
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Summary: As a mini-biopic of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Gods and Generals really is a success. The "Gods" bit referring, likely, to the legend that surrounds both Jackson and Lee in the history of the Civil War. In the end, though, they prove to be only ordinary men.