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Ronald Maxwell
Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Lang
Writing Credits:
Ronald Maxwell, Jeffrey Shaara

An unforgettable story of the Civil War, from the Director of Gettysburg.

Based on Jeffrey M. Shaara's bestseller, God's and Generals recounts the fierce allegiances and combat of the early Civil War. Ronald F. Maxwell directs this epic prequel to his Gettysburg, framing the story with three bold men and three fateful battles. The men: Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels), "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang), Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall). The battles: Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville. Through these combatants and conflicts we witness the bravery and strife of a nation at war with itself.

Box Office:
$90 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.675 million on 1533 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.870 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Castilian Dolby Stereo 2.0
Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 280 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 5/24/2011

Disc One:
• Introduction by Ted Turner and Director/Screenwriter Ronald F. Maxwell
• Audio Commentary with Director/Screenwriter Ronald F. Maxwell, Historical Consultant Keith Gibson, and Professor James Robertson
• Extended Cut Audio Commentary with Director/Screenwriter Ronald F. Maxwell, Historical Consultant Keith Gibson, and Professor James Robertson
Disc Two:
• “The Life of Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson” Featurette
• “The Authenticities of the Film” Featurette
• “Journey to the Past” Featurette
• Music Video
• “Ron Maxwell’s Invitation to Take the Journey Through Hallowed Ground”
• Theatrical Trailer

• Hardcover Book


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Gods and Generals [Blu-Ray] (2003)

Reviewed by David Williams (July 28, 2003) / Colin Jacobson Colin Jacobson (May 23, 2011)

My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death; I don’t concern myself with that. But to be always ready, whenever it should overtake me. That is how all men should live - then all men would be equally brave. Stonewall Jackson

Gods and Generals is a rather lengthy - but deservedly so - adaptation of Jeffrey Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Killer Angels, and a prequel to the equally epic 1993 film, Gettysburg. Unlike the earlier movie, Gods and Generals deals with more than just one singular battle and covers three military campaigns in the war between the states; the first battle of Manassas/Bull Run as well as the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Although the South won the three battles featured in the film, we get both sides of the story. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (Stephen Lang), General Robert E. Lee’s (Robert Duvall) protégé, colleague and most trusted commander, is the major voice for the Confederacy in Gods and Generals, while the Union is epitomized through the exploits and words of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels). Both men were great military strategists, devoutly religious, and wholly devoted to their respective sides.

Outside of the war, their relationship would be vastly different, but because of their individual causes, they were sworn enemies on the battlefield, although respectful of the others skill and reputation in combat. It’s through these combatants that “we witness the bravery and strife of a nation at war with itself.”

Producer Ted Turner, writer/director Ronald Maxwell and company loaded up the film with a fairly impressive cast. Performances of note include Daniels, Lang and Bruce Boxleitner as General James Longstreet. Mira Sorvino has a small part playing Fanny Chamberlain and she definitely makes good use of her short screen time. While some of Maxwell’s dialogue seems detached and difficult for the actors to deliver, the historical nature of the project makes the stilted lines forgivable, and most performers pull off their parts quite well.

Let us not forget that over 600,000 Americans died during the Civil War – more deaths than the other conflicts in our nation’s history combined. It was a very tumultuous time in our nation’s history and definitely something that should serve as a sobering reminder. However, like we see in Gods and Generals, war is always costly in human terms and even with the advancements in technology and warfare from the 19th century up until now, it’s still a horrific experience for all involved.

For those with even a passing interest in American history, Gods and Generals is a great way to revisit the events that happened just before Gettysburg. It’s a well-executed film and while it’s admittedly laborious in spots, it comes highly recommended.

Note that David Williams wrote the review above about the film’s 219-minute theatrical version. The Blu-ray provides a new 280-minute extended cut. Colin Jacobson watched that edition; he never saw the 219-minute Gods, which left him unable to compare the two. Clearly the extra 61 minutes must’ve had a major impact on the film’s narrative, but unfortunately, Colin’s unfamiliarity with the shorter version meant he couldn’t offer direct comparisons.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Gods and Generals appears in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an often attractive but still problematic transfer.

The main issue stemmed from definition. Whether due to the presence of almost five hours of content on on Blu-ray Disc, the original photography, or the use of noise reduction techniques, some parts of the film lacked clarity. The image could take on a smeared, smoothed-out appearance that affected different spots in a variety of ways. For instance, a shot at the 13:20 mark showed good definition in the foreground but was positively blurry in the background. More than a few additional sequences showed similar – though less intense – instances of softness.

These instances usually affected interiors, but not always. For example, at the 37:50 mark, a shot of marching soldiers looked smeared and ill-defined. Again, these problems didn’t appear constantly, and much of the film showed nice clarity and delineation. However, the blurry bits created definite distractions.

I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. Source flaws also failed to become an issue. I saw a couple of tiny specks but nothing else; this was a clean presentation.

Colors acted as a highlight. The movie went with a warm, natural palette that favored blues and reds. These hues appeared vivid and full throughout the film. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows demonstrated generally nice clarity and definition; a few nighttime shots could be somewhat opaque, but most seemed good. Really, there was a fair amount to like about the presentation, but the smearing and softness were enough of an intrusion to lower my overall grade to a “C+”.

Happily, I found little about which to complain when I examined the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1. As befit a war movie, the soundscape sometimes opened up in a broad manner. Battle sequences used the various channels in a dynamic way, as the various fight elements like gunfire, cannons and the like zipped about the room and engulfed us. These added real power to the proceedings and plopped us firmly amidst the action.

Given the film’s nearly five-hour running time, the action scenes didn’t dominate. This meant a lot of scenes with less vivid audio, but they were still pleasing. The quieter sequences demonstrated a good sense of place and atmosphere; they showed a fine feel for the settings.

At all times, audio quality was solid. Speech appeared concise and distinctive; no edginess or other problems affected the lines. Music seemed vivid and lively, and effects delivered great reproduction. In particular, the various implements of war boasted fine clarity and power; bass response was terrific, as the cannons and other loud elements blasted us. I felt totally pleased with this strong soundtrack.

The disc claims to include two audio commentaries, both from the same participants: director/screenwriter Ronald F. Maxwell, historical consultant/VMI Museum director Keith Gibson, and Virginia Tech Professor James Robertson. I’ll discuss the “extended cut commentary” first and then offer some notes on the shorter track.

This piece sits Maxwell, Gibson and Robertson together for a running, screen-specific affair. They discuss historical notes/background, research and accuracy/liberties, sets and locations, cast, characters and performances, effects and music.

Though the track does touch on some filmmaking topics, it spends the vast majority of its time with historical elements. That’s a good thing, as the commentary delivers nice background about the events and characters.

Unfortunately, the discussion suffers from an awful lot of gaps, as a great deal of dead air occurs. Normally I would cut a lot of slack given the movie’s length; after all, the film runs nearly five hours.

However, the subject matter means that there’s much more than five hours of material to discuss, so the gaps disappoint. The participants are clearly very knowledgeable, so I would think they’d easily be able to chat for extended periods. This makes the empty spaces more prominent and less understandable. There’s still enough good content to keep us with the track, but the dead air can frustrate.

The other commentary fills one hour, 29 minutes and includes Maxwell, Robertson and Gibson. It creates a frustrating affair because it duplicates some of the longer track but doesn’t act solely as an abbreviated version. The two cover the same range of topics, but you’ll find some unique material in the shorter piece.

Which seems annoying. When I compared the two, the longer commentary sometimes lacked information during scenes that offered content in the shorter one. Why would the abbreviated track feature anything not found in the longer one? If it was a totally different commentary, I’d understand the variations, but it’s not; some of the exact same recordings show up in both. It’s weird to have two commentaries that are often – but not always – identical.

Disc One also provides an Introduction from Maxwell and executive producer Ted Turner. In this nine-minute, 44-second piece, we get notes about both men’s interest in the Civil War, aspects of the production and the changes for the extended cut. This is the only place where anyone discusses how the theatrical and extended versions differ, so it’s good to get those details.

The remained supplements appear on a second disc. We launch with The Life of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a 14-minute, 30-second piece that includes notes from Gibson, Robertson, Gods and Generals author Jeff Shaara, and Stonewall Jackson House executive director Michael Anne Lynn. As expected, the program delivers some basics about Jackson’s life, career and legacy. It’s too short to give us a strong overview, but it acts as a nice little summary.

Next comes the 12-minute, 56-second The Authenticities of the Film. It features remarks from Maxwell, producers Dennis Frye and Ronald G. Smith, stunt coordinator Chris Howell, cinematographer Kees Van Oostrum, military advisor Dana Heim, costume designer Richard LaMotte, and actor Jeff Daniels. Here we learn about attempts to accurately reproduce the film’s period subject matter. We get a lot of good footage from the set and learn a bit of useful material here, though the piece occasionally feels a little self-congratulatory.

For the final featurette, we get Journey to the Past. It lasts 22 minutes, one second and includes notes from Maxwell, Daniels, Turner, executive producer Robert Katz, production designer Michael Hanan, and actors Donzaleigh Abernathy, Robert Duvall, Stephen Lang, Frankie Faison, Kali Rocha, Mira Sorvino, and Kevin Conway. The show looks at cast, characters and perspectives, historical elements, the film’s development, and some production notes. This is really little more than a promotional piece; it sheds a little light on the movie and related areas, but not much, so it’s largely a dud.

After this we locate a Music Video for Bob Dylan’s “Cross the Green Mountain”. Like most videos of this sort, it comes with a fair amount of movie footage, but it also contributes unique shots of Dylan in period garb as he acts out a related story. That makes it more interesting than most.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Ron Maxwell’s Invitation to Take the Journey Through Hallowed Ground. It fills seven minutes, one second, and acts as a pitch for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. It really isn’t anything more than a long advertisement.

For this release, the package comes in a hardcover book. It includes an essay from Maxwell, a story overview cast/character biographies, a Civil War timeline, a discussion of Civil War weapons and photos. The book finishes the set in a positive manner.

Gods and Generals is a painfully authentic film that goes to great lengths to present both sides of the story in a historically accurate and authentic manner. The Blu-ray provides very good audio and some useful supplements but the image suffers from inconsistencies. This is an interesting historical film but an erratic Blu-ray presentation.

To rate this film visit the original review of GODS AND GENERALS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main