2000s Gods and Generals (2003/2011, Blu Ray Director’s Cut)

Published on June 13th, 2011 | by Chris


Gods and Generals (2003/2011, Blu Ray Director’s Cut)

Reviewed by:
On June 13, 2011
Last modified:October 3, 2012


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.

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.

Gods and Generals (Two-Disc Extended Director's Cut in Blu-ray Book Packaging) Gods and Generals (Two-Disc Extended Director's Cut in Blu-ray Book Packaging)
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Reedited from beginning to end with amplified scenes and an added subplot, this all-new 2-Disc Extended Director's Cut of Ronald F. Maxwell's Gettysburg prequel restores his original vision of the fierce allegiances and combat of the early American Civil War...

DVD Information

Binding: Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio:
Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Brand: Warner Manufacturing
Manufacturer: Warner Bros.
Original Release Date:
  • Jeff Daniels
  • Stephen Lang


  • Factory sealed DVD


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Gods and Generals (2003/2011, Blu Ray Director’s Cut) Chris

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.


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

6 Responses to Gods and Generals (2003/2011, Blu Ray Director’s Cut)

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Sorry, but I fear you are wrong on this one. I have to add the caveat that I have only seen the original and not the extended version. It is possible that the director’s cut improves on the original (I sure hope so) and I am looking forward to seeing it, but I doubt they cut the offensive subplot of Jackson’s loyal slave. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Southerner and “rooted” for the Army of Northern Virginia when I read numerous books on that army, but parts of this movie are offensive. It was also too religious. My experience of watching G&G when it first came out is one of the biggest disapointments of my viewing life.

    “Gettysburg” had a budget of $25 million and G&G had one of $60.

    It is important to note that “Gods and Generals” was based on a book by Jeff Shaara (Michael’s son) and he is generally considered an inferior writer to his father. He also was more Southern-centric than his father.

    The Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville are well-done and the acting is good, but there is no way the movie is better than “Gettysburg” – you are way out on the limb on this one. It was overwhelmingly criticised when it came out.

  2. Chris says:

    Ouch! Figured I’d get spanked for this one. 😉 I left the bit with Jackson’s cook (slave? he hired him on as an employee, right?) out of the review, because I didn’t think it was all that relevant, or offensive for that matter. As for the “too religious” argument, I didn’t touch on that either because (like I said) I don’t know enough about Jackson’s history to know if he may have been a religious man, or to what extent. I just don’t know.

    Ditto the entire history that surrounds this. Speaking as your average movie-viewer (and a born-and-raised midwest Yank ;] ) I just thought this better. *shrug* Maybe because I’m *not* a “southerner” I don’t have the exposure to the history and legend there….?

    Guess we have to disagree here (not the first time and won’t be the last, I’m sure!) :]

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    You have nothing to defend. I respect your take on the movie. I am probably too loyal to “Gettysburg” to be truly impartial. Jackson was actually very religious. Trust me, Southerners have no more knowledge of the Civil War than anyone else. They are just as historically illiterate as Yankees. Don’t lump yourself with average viewers.

  4. Jeff says:

    The “Special” 150th Anniversary edition insults the memory of all Americans who fell at the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

    According to the Introduction by Ted Turner and Ron Maxwell, the film makers took “great care” in ensuring the accuracy of the war’s events. If such “great” care was taken, how then could they date the battle of Antietam on September 19, and be wrong about the date of the single bloodiest day of American history?

    Is it also acceptable for us, as Americans to forget such days as: November 19, 1863, December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, or even September 11, 2001?

    While this may seem minor to many people, As a historian and Civil War enthusiast, I find it revolting!

  5. Trev says:

    Jackson was very religious. I am not sure what particularly triggered it, but it seemed to flower sometime after his service in the Mexican American war.

    if Jackson had not been wounded its quite possible that he could have cut of a large part of the Federal Army from the Potomac (?) and who knows what would have happened then.
    Both he and Lee realised they could not win a long war which perhaps explains the risks they took and the strategy they embarked on.

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