Available on blu-ray today, May 24
Giveaway–leave a comment and register to win the whole two-film commemorative DVD’s—CLOSED
First of all, a disclaimer: I already own both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. I fell in love with Gettysburg years ago–I actually dragged my family down to Gettysburg a couple of times because of it–and then bought Gods and Generals as well. So when Warner Brothers contacted me and asked if our blog would like to review the newly released versions and then give them away, well of course I said yes. I thought, at the time, that I would do one blog, but then decided that the films are so different, they each deserve their own separate post.
Second–each new release comes with 2 DVDs, one with additional features, and a small book. The Gods and Generals book talks about the making of the film, the major characters (such as Jackson and Lee), the actors who portrayed them, has a Civil War timeline, and two pages of short descriptions of Civil War weapons. It’s put together nicely, holds the two DVDs and is a welcome addition.
Although made after Gettysburg, Gods and Generals is about the beginning of the war through Jackson’s death a couple of months before Gettysburg, July 1-3 1863. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Stonewall Jackson (Steven Lang), but when needed it takes detours into other points of view, such as General Lee (Robert Duval) of course, Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) and General Hancock (Brian Mallon). While the movie covers battles of First Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, it is about far more than just the fighting itself. In fact, it starts with Lee being offered the position of commanding general of the Union army. He denies the offer, giving his reasoning behind it–his love of home and Virginia. Scenes such as these come often in the film, from discussions between citizens and soldiers about the motivations behind their viewpoints, to the difficulties of making their decisions, to the painful repercussions to the civilians in the way.
As the title suggests, a great deal of this film portrays the religious nature of the characters, especially Jackson. But it makes clear that not all who fought in the war felt the same way, as one officer, dying from wounds, tells Jackson that “you know that I am not a believer”. We are also shown with clarity the horror of war, most specifically with the Union soldiers at Fredericksburg spending a night on a battlefield, listening to the moaning of the dying and using the dead to protect them from enemy fire. We see bodies littering fields, the soldiers’ living conditions, their drilling, and their concerns about being fed and clothed. And we see the worry and concern of the officers before battle and the fear for their men.
As an amateur historian–and I admit readily that my focus has not been the Civil War, although I do enjoy reading about it–it seems fairly accurate. The dialogue follows the period, without, for the most part, being intrusive. In fact, I’ve often played these DVDs in the background as I’ve edited my own work, hoping to absorb the feeling of the dialogue. True there are lapses in the film. It is, regrettably, not possible to show every battle. The ones chosen are the ones best known in history and are generally turning points. I was disappointed in the original release that the Battle of Antietam wasn’t included; it was the bloodiest day of combat in the history of the United States. In this newly released version the battle is touched upon, which I liked, but again, not to the extent I believe it deserves.
Which brings me to the differences between the original and this newly release version–if you have any interest in the Civil War, seeing the film is a must. If you have more than a passing interest, buying the DVD is a no brainer. I’ve watched this film several times and every time I see things that I missed the first time. It goes by so swiftly, the names of the “giants” we know so well flying by so that it’s difficult to focus for long. Definitely worth owning. But if you already own it, is it worth buying this new version?
Its extra hour of footage is seemless and fantastic. There’s a signficantly stronger emphasis on the views of southern African-Americans, with Jackson’s black servant given more lines and scenes. We see one or two scenes with him discussing with a freed slave their love of home and, yes, even the respect and love of their owners versus the overwhelming, human desire for freedom. For the first time, also, we meet John Wilkes Booth, who didn’t have much to do with the war, but changed everything after the war with his assassination of Lincoln. And for those who’ve seen Gettysburg and wondered about the spy Harrison, we meet him in the director’s cut of Gods and Generals while he is still an actor, as we see his decision to go to war himself.
One final comment–I’ve read that reviewers have complained that the focus on these films seems more sided to the southern cause than northern. I admit, I feel this way as well. However, I think this may be because until Sherman and Grant, the Federal generals passed quickly by and may not have been worth much effort in getting to know them. I did read in the book that came with the collection that a third film involving Grant has been planned but never made. I expect this would be a great deal less one-sided. Fingers crossed that the movie is someday made!
So. .. leave a comment, and register to win the full commemorative package of Gods and Generals and Gettysburg. And if you don’t win, you can find out more information and/or purchase it here: www.civilwarmovies150.com and of course at Amazon.com. And stop by tomorrow for Gettysburg!
Additional Information provided by Warner Brothers:
Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut and Gettysburg Director’s Cut will be released May 24 from Warner Home Video in 2-disc, 48-page Blu-ray Book versions packaged with photographs, bios, timeline, production notes, maps, and more. They arrive in a double-wide gift box as a Limited Collector’s Edition on July 4
Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut is director Ron Maxwell’s newly re-edited 4-hour- 40-minute version, with one hour of new footage added, including amplified scenes and new subplot, never-before-seen footage and new bonus features.
Reedited from beginning to end with expanded scenes and an added subplot, this all-new 2-Disc Extended Director’s Cut — a prequel to Maxwell’s companion film, Gettysburg — restores his original vision of the fierce allegiances and combat during the early American Civil War.
Special Features* and Details:
- Commentary with Ron Maxwell, Keith Gibson and Professor James Robertson
- Extended Cut Commentary with Maxwell, Gibson and Robertson (NEW)
- Introduction by Ted Turner and Ron Maxwell (NEW)
- Gods & Generals: Journey to the Past
- The Life of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
- The Authenticities of the Film
- Cross the Green Mountain – Music Video by Bob Dylan
- Ron Maxwell’s Invitation to Take the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (NEW)
- Run Time: 280 minutes
- Rated: PG-13
- Price: $34.99 SRP
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