Gods and Generals
Biography / Drama / History / War
Gods and Generals
Biography / Drama / History / War
The rise and fall of legendary war hero Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson as he leads the Confederacy to great success against the Union from 1861 to 1863.
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June 21, 2017 at 06:40 AM
"Gods and Generals": A Breakdown
35% - The filmmakers fanboy-ing over their fantasy iteration of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. His demise marks the end of the film.
35% - Blatantly revisionist 'Lost Cause' propaganda masquerading as 'history'. Depicts blacks in the confederacy as a collection of Uncle Remus and Aunt Jemima characters serving the cause of their own free will. Shows only major battles which were counted as confederate victories (completely ignores the Battle of Shiloh).
10% - A subplot involving two stage actors mostly so the film-makers can allude to President Lincoln's assassination, includes a particular lurid performance of the murder scene from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
20% - Only this part is a true prequel to 'Gettysburg'; shows the pre-Gettysburg story of the 20th Maine and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, including their decimation at the Battle of Fredricksburg
**tl;dr** 80% pro-confederate Hogwash; go re-watch 'Gettysburg' instead
This Film is a Lengthy and Sometimes Tedious Glorification of the Confederacy and Stonewall Jackson
It's hard to believe "Gods and Generals" came out in 2003. The film slightly resembles some of the films from Hollywood's dark era of rewriting history. The film depicts the stories of some of the Confederacy's most prominent generals during the American Civil War including controversial leaders such as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. From a technical perspective, the film can be appreciated for the costume detail and acting.
In one of the opening scenes of this film, John Wilkes Booth is seen delivering a soliloquy as southern belles from Virginia swoon. By the way the film depicts Booth, one would never guess that this same man went on to murder a sitting US president, one who was perhaps the country's greatest. This is just a taste of what is to come. Overall, "Gods and Generals" is a visual feast of highly idealized portrayals of Confederate historical figures. But its pretty hard to digest that a movie produced by Hollywood would glorify people like Booth who murdered a sitting president beside his wife. While Robert E. Lee and Jackson were not a reprehensible as Booth, they were nevertheless controversial historical figures who were imperfect in a very human sense. This film elevates such figures to god status and idolizes them in a deeply unhealthy way.
But the most horrifying aspect of the film is the sheer lack of diversity in the casting. It's white faces everywhere. The first slave face doesn't make an appearance on-screen until nearly twenty minutes have passed. Even then, the slave is depicted cheering on the men leaving Virginia to fight for the Confederacy. That particularly scene would have been laughable if it wasn't so absurd. This film came out in the twenty-first century. It's hard to understand how the makes of the film expected to get away with making a pro-Confederacy film with such little diversity.
This could have been a decent film. If only it wasn't so misguided and one-sided in its misrepresentation of such important historical events and figures. Additionally, the religious slant is a bit of an unnecessary distraction. This film could have taken the historical route or the fictional route, but instead it decided to rewrite history with sloppy fiction. That is why this film isn't worth watching despite the high production value and effort that was put into making it.
Read more IMDb reviews
The surprising success of "Gettysburg" (based on the novel THE KILLER ANGELS) inspired the filmmakers to try to make an even-handed earlier story of the war leading up to that great battle, focusing mainly on the stories of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang) in gray and Jeff Daniels (reprising his role as Gettysburg hero Joshua Chamberlain) in blue.
In some ways, "Gods and Generals" is an improvement over "Gettysburg." Martin Sheen's Robert E. Lee (no doubt the worst performance by a notable actor since Jason Robards' Brutus in "Julius Caesar" in 1970) has been thankfully replaced by the much better Robert Duvall (is there some way to digitize Duvall into "Gettysburg"?) Several good actors have joined the "Gettysburg" bunch, including England's always good John Castle (as a southern who grew up in rural areas where accents were still prevalent, I always thought Brits did southern accents better than Americans from other parts of the US, with the one exception of Michael Caine in "Hurry Sundown").
On the other hand, "Gettysburg" had a good focus, retelling the battle of Gettysburg--well, as they thought of it when the novel was written, though recent research made those theories obsolete even while they were being filmed; so much for research).
"Gods and Generals" is too diffuse. It tries to shove too much into one movie. It should have been a miniseries, an earlier "Game of Thrones" type of entertainment, without the gratuitous nudity. Instead, they shove into the length of one (very) long movie every battle in the eastern theater of battle, up to the (spoiler to anyone who slept through American history) death of Jackson. Though in the interest of suspense I won't say who killed him.
Unlike with "Gettysburg" I did not see this movie in the theaters, only on disk where they added material to make it even more interminable.
Beautifully shot--perhaps too beautifully. But up to Gettysburg that part of the war was all fought in the south, and the south is quite lovely and photogenic.
I don't know how accurate the details were. I had a hard time staying awake.