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118 out of 155 people found the following review useful:
The critics are wrong, 3 March 2003
Author: mholland from Boulder Creek, CA
I've seen Gods and Generals twice, and I've enjoyed it both times. The
critics I've read seem to object to the piety, the length, and lack of
political correctness. It seems to have escaped them that the Civil War
fought in Victorian times, and that the Victorians were extremely pious
sentimental, not to mention hypocritical. However, this did not stop them
from efficiently making war on their enemies. The movie caught this
perfectly, with Jackson's assumption that God's will is his will -- the
scene before the battle on Sunday, the contrast between his sentimental
of children and his 'Kill them all' about his enemies, the constant
references to Bible verses ripped out of context.
Regarding the length of the movie, all I can say is that I wasn't bored at
all, or restless, just fascinated with what was happening on screen. I'm
sure for MTV critics any movie over 90 minutes is epic.
Regarding the lack of political correctness, which in my opinion is our modern version of hypocrisy (we can do anything we want as long as we call it by another name) I would like to point out that this is an attempt at a historical movie and that the Civil War was NOT fought to free the slaves, nor were many people in the North comfortable with the concept of a franchised Negro. And some slaves in the South were relatively well treated by their owners, not that they probably didn't want freedom, but they didn't particularly wish their masters ill. The system was set up so that everyone involved, slaves and masters, had something to lose by destroying the status quo, and that's a very difficult thing for people to do. It's easy for us now to say 'they should have freed the slaves' but if you knew that to free your slaves would beggar your children, would you be able to do it?
As with Gettysburg, the battle scenes were impressive and awe-inspiring. And they made the strategy and tactics clear to the viewer which is a monumental achievement, not to mention showing the pure courage on both sides, going to probably death or dismemberment without flinching. I would have liked more about the Northern command struggles to balance the picture but I can see how tempting it was to show the Southern victories to balance the horrible defeat at Gettysburg -- and this picture is meant to be one of a trilogy. I can only hope that word of mouth defeats the critics and gets this movie the audience it deserves.
72 out of 94 people found the following review useful:
Highly recommended; don't listen to the critics. Great film., 24 February 2003
Author: Tom Goldrup (Tom-406) from Ben Lomond, CA
Gods and Generals (despite the ravages of many critics) is a very good film. The acting, writing, cinematography are all of top quality. Billy Crystal once said, "We know where we would be without the critics, but where would they be without us?" This film is historically accurate, deeply moving, and with outstanding acting by all concerned. Stephen Lang's performance of Stonewall Jackson should be remembered at Oscar time. Some critics condemn it as being sympathetic with the Southern cause. Jeff Daniels and others give their side in eloquent dialogue for their feelings on the conflict. I suppose Gone With the Wind would be criticized the same if released today. Since the story revolves around Stonewall Jackson it will obviously give his point of view on the subject also. The religious overtones given by the characters of both sides conformed with the religious feelings of the times that is lacking today and as such it gives the critics something else to condemn. And the moving scene with human emotions between Jackson and the little Corbin girl brings the human touch to the character. What is wrong with the critics....they must have slept through most the film. They say it is pro-slavery. There are at least three fine speeches by Martha, Jim Lewis and Lawrence Chamberlain bringing out the wrongness of that issue. Even Jackson says that slavery should be abandoned. Such is a great movie trashed by the critics and they miss the whole reason for this masterpiece. I give it ten stars. See it, and decide for yourself about this film. Every minute of it's close to four hours is worth it. Yep. Yep. And Yep.
46 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
Good movie overall but Gettysburg was better., 26 February 2003
Author: Belfield from Glade Spring, VA
My View in Summary: Overall, I enjoyed the movie (despite some of its
apparent flaws), and I plan to see it again in the theater, as well as
purchase the extended version when it comes out on DVD. I liked
and the novel "Gods and Generals" better. I am fairly confident that the
majority of Americans will not like nor support this film due to its
What I liked about the movie: I thought Lang did an excellent job portraying Jackson. I was deeply moved by his final scene in the film.
The attention to detail was good; overall it was historically accurate--with some exceptions.
The costumes looked good.
I appreciated the show of how Christianity influenced many in the Civil War, such as Jackson and Lee.
I liked the fact that many from Gettysburg reprised their roles in this film, although there were some who couldn't, which was a little disappointing.
What I didn't like or wished was better about the movie: The fake beards were more than obvious in this film, with the exception of Jackson's and Lee's, but this is relatively minor to the overall film.
I thought, with maybe the exception of the Fredericksburg battle, the depiction of the battle scenes were not nearly as well done as in Gettysburg; but to be fair, there were more battles to cover in this film. Gettysburg only had one, meaning more time could be given to the details of the battle.
The battle of Antietam was not in the movie at all, not even mentioned, which is very disappointing given its significance and effects.
Some of the CGI is poorly done (i.e., very obvious), but, again, this is a small part of the movie and in my opinion neither makes nor breaks it.
Some of the speeches were a bit stiff and seemed contrived, particularly Chamberlain's speech before the battle of Fredricksburg.
Not enough time was given to developing the characters of Lee, Chamberlain, and Hancock, all of whom are important in the novel. In fact, in contrast to the film, the novel gives most time to Lee, not Jackson. To be fair, however, novels usually are better than their film counterparts given the constraints of time.
My thoughts on some of the common complaints about the movie: Some complain there wasn't enough realism as to the carnage of war. To that I say there was enough to get the point across, and for myself, it is refreshing from time to time to see a movie that doesn't rely too heavily on blood and guts. This is not meant to be a blood and guts movie. The novel is even less bloody. Anyone who wants to see a blood and guts war movie should buy or rent Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, the Patriot, Braveheart, etc.
Others complain that there were too many poetic speeches. Indeed there were many speeches, but that was also true of Gettysburg, which most view as a good movie. I didn't mind the speeches so much other than they sometimes truncated the character in such a way that the audience fails to see their visceral humanity. As stated above, the only speech I thought was a bit over the top was Chamberlain's before the battle of Fredricksburg. It seemed forced, showy, and odd that the whole regiment would stand motionless and quiet for so long to hear him go on and on. Clearly it was intended to be a poignant moment showing historical parallels between the American Civil War and Roman history. But the whole scene ends up feeling staged and apathetic.
Others complain about the strong emphasis on religion. As stated above, I found this emphasis refreshing, for certainly Jackson and Lee were very devout Christian men. Christianity was a part of the ethos of this country at that time and affected many in both north and south.
Still others complain about the pro-southern perspective being so strong. While I admit there is an imbalance between the northern and southern perspectives, which clearly favors the southern view, I also think this only stands to reason, since the overall focus of the film is clearly on Jackson, a southerner. And given the fact that many other movies often underplay the southern perspective (i.e., it was fought over State's rights) or ignore it altogether, some will find this movie's emphasis a refreshing change. On the other hand, the clear downplay of the role and effect of slavery in this film will no doubt trouble many Americans.
Finally, others complain that the movie is too long. But I find this to be a misnomer. What most really mean by this is that the movie is not entertaining enough to justify such a length. This is not the first long film in cinematic history. Other films were very long and yet praised as wonderful (Terms of Endearment, Dances With Wolves, Gone with the Wind, Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, etc.). The real issue here, I believe, is that this movie for many is too "slow" or "mundane" in their estimation. This, I think, is a result of our becoming so accustomed to roller coaster rides at the movies. If it isn't constantly exciting or humorous or action-packed, it needs to be short. I suppose that in a TV age wherein we are accustom to pure entertainment compacted into ten-minute blocks of time separated by pithy, entertaining commercials, this complaint ought not surprise us, given the historical orientation of this film. But I think such a complaint is evidence of a deeper cultural problem, which should concern us all.
My opinion who will like this movie: many Historians, Teachers, and Homeschooling parents; most southerners; Civil War reenactors; many Christians.
My opinion who will not like this movie: Most northerners, most African Americans, many Liberals, most in Hollywood.
My opinion on how the movie will fare: It will likely not last long in the theaters. Most critics will hate it. It will come out on DVD/Home video sooner than most movies. It will likely not rake in as much money as it cost to make. However, I hope to be proven wrong here. Though not without flaws, I believe it is worth seeing and discussing.
61 out of 93 people found the following review useful:
Great non-P.C. film, 17 March 2003
Author: Reno-007 from san diego, CA
Great Civil War film that DOES NOT WHITEWASH slavery. One of the best things about this film is that it does not follow the PC slime that is so prevalent in society. Don't take my word for it but this movie followed the lives of these people with great attention to historic detail. I think the biggest mistake that people make when watching something like this is that they are thinking with 21st century minds. When you see this you have to understand that this country, both northern and southern states, was very different. I've read other reviews for this and have noticed that people have'nt read their history. This movie accurately shows the events leading up to the war. Yes slavery was a cause, but not THE cause. Most of these people like Lee and Jackson loved the Union Army and were not seccesionists. Lee himself said "I believe that seccesion is unconstitutional and I believe that slavery is an immoral and political evil in any society". These men were fighting for their homes and what they believed in. When you watch the film, try and keep that in mind and don't listen to these doorknobs who claim that everybody in the northern states were all righteous and pure and wanted to liberate the black slaves in the south and that all southerners were racist traitors, dry that out and you could fertilize Central Park in New York. You be the judge, but honestly if history and the Civil War are not your thing then don't see the movie. However for those who love history and have an open mind then this is the movie for you. The acting is top notch, most noteably Stephen Lang as Stonewall Jackson. Also Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall as General Lee. The costumes and sets were very believeable and historically accurate. The sound and special effects were well done, and it gives you the feel that you are there in 1863. Wonderful classic 9/10 stars.
37 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
An incredible, moving epic, 5 August 2003
Author: boondocksaint20 from Charleston, SC
For the first time, I am very disapointed with the vast majority of reviews
on a movie on IMDB. Actually, I was shocked that the movie I just saw was
in no way, the movie that so many people called out right disapointing.
Though this movie does have it's flaws, it is one of the most moving war
pictures I have ever seen. Actually, it is more of a character study than a
war film, and appeals to many different audiences.
Many have commented on the long running time, and the lengthy, and I'll admit, at times superfluously long speeches, but to tell you the truth, I was so engaged with the performances of Steven Lang, Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall, that the close to 4 hour running time felt like a regular 2 hour movie. It was definitely nice to see more of the aspects of the war for the Confederate and Union people that you don't read in your regular high school history book. I won't make this a political commentary because frankly, one thing everyone can agree on is that this was without a doubt, our nation's darkest time, and both sides lost far too many brave young souls, that were robbed of their chance at life. Both sides were full of young people, many of which did not fully understand their cause, nor why they were thrust into this horrible war, but both sides knew one thing...that they were fighting to preserve their very livelihood. But, I will say that the film did depict a more truthful nature of both sides, especially with the issue of how slaves were treated, and the ideologies (that are sometimes conflicting on the same side, as we see in a scene between Daniels and C. Thomas Howell) between both sides. To be honest, what you read in the history books in school is only partly true, and is in fact biased. And the film does portray the fact of the matter that it was a hard time for everyone, and the U.S., even the world, had a much different view on life, liberty and even the horrible slavery of others. It was a time of the birth of a new nation and the death of its people, a coming of age for this great country, and is a theme that is portrayed wonderfully throughout.
This film also depicts the role of prayer, and shows how God's Will, to those who search for it, can work wonders. Now, whether you are a Christian or not, the very morals derived from the prayers ought to be an inspiration to everyone, and if anything, was an accurate representation of the men portrayed. Chamberlain, Jackson and Lee were all, indeed, devoted followers of God, and it is almost poetic how Gods and Generals shows how their devotion enabled them to have the insane bravery that they did. I found it very moving, and I know many others will too.
All in all, there have been few films that have touched me as much as this movie did. The dialogue is incredible and the battle scenes are very well choreographed. I do have to agree though with another viewer that at times, the music seems a bit out of place...for instance we hear a thundering choir similar to the famous charge of Fort Wagner in the movie Glory, but, though a great piece, it seems almost tacked on in a way. There are other instances of a sad love theme throughout that are not needed, but all in all, that is my only major complaint. The film is long, and I really thought I'd be bored as hell throughout. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how the movie flows. Yes, there are jingoistic, drawn out speeches, but they all are moving, are performed masterfully, and flow nicely. There were very few moments of 'dead time' where the movie just stopped at a stand still. I would recommend this movie to anyone, considering it isn't just a war movie junkie or Civil War buff movie. It has appealing elements for everyone, and is one of the most realistic portrayals of such a sad time in our history that I have ever seen. Like Schindler's List, this movie should definitely be seen by everyone so we do not forget the horror of a country at war with itself, and take the extra steps in order to ensure that it never happens again. I had low expectations going into this movie, and honestly thought I would get bored during the non-war scenes, but I was wrong, this movie was a very pleasant surprise, and probably got a bad rap from the same people that teach the history that all Southerners mistreated their slaves and that the only Union cause was to free said slaves. Both sides had a cause willing to die for, and both sides are sympathized for equally. Gods and Generals shows that there are no heroes in war, and that through all of the madness, humanity will always survive. Highly recommended. I rarely give this, but this movie deserves it, and it was truly touching...10/10 stars.
25 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
A first-rate historical movie, 17 March 2003
Author: macsperkins from Houston, Texas
The film "Gods and Generals" is essentially a biographical film about General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson of the CSA. Those who have no idea, or interest, as to who this man was should probably stick to such heavyweight box-office competition such as "Agent Cody Banks," "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," or "Daredevil" instead. "Gods and Generals" is well-made, old-fashioned film that gives an absorbing view of the U.S. Civil War and one of its leading figures. The portrait of Jackson is accurate from the big issues (his profound religious faith) down to the trivial (his fondness for lemonade). Characters both Northern and Southern are portrayed even-handedly, and the historical and social aspects of the film are authentic. Characters quote poetry from memory and sometimes speak in almost biblical cadences, in the same way that Lincoln's speeches were deeply influenced by the language of the King James Bible. It is a beautiful film to look at, with great feeling for the often-wild landscape of the era; in this respect, it gains immeasurably from being seen on a full-scale theatrical screen. Two criticisms of the movie have been made repeatedly: (1) it's "too long"; and (2) it doesn't accurately portray the horrors of war. On the first score -- too long for what? It is the right length for its subject matter. It's the right length to give an earnest and thoughtful account of a great general's life and a turning point in American history, even world history. (Many believe the Civil War might have gone differently had Jackson survived.) It IS too long if you have Attention Deficit Disorder or have been raised upon television sitcoms and the constant jump-cuts & meritricious visual razzle-dazzle of TV commercials and music videos. On the second score -- no one will ever walk away from this film eager to see war in real life. Men line up with their rifles (in a mode of combat no longer practiced), blast away at each other nearly face-to-face, and drop en masse like bags of bloody meat. In one memorable scene, Col. Chamberlain [Jeff Daniels] sleeps on the nighttime battlefield using his fellow soldiers' corpses as bedding; come daylight, he uses those same corpses to absorb flying enemy bullets once the battle resumes anew. Apparently what some critics actually desire are cool special effects, with exploding bodies and mangled limbs flying across the screen. "Gods and Generals" is a movie of great integrity and power -- one made by adults for adults.
26 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Quite A Tribute To 'Stonewall'Jackson, 3 August 2006
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
This a decent movie and a wonderful tribute to a fine, fine man in
General "Stonewall" Jackson, but I didn't rate it higher only because
it's not a film I would watch many times. The lulls are just too long
for a film that goes over 3 1/2 hours. For those who enjoyed the
even-longer, but better "Gettysburg" this is must-viewing. I think a
third movie would be in order to complete the Civil Story story.
What's very impressive about this movie was (1) not overdone violence; (2) beautiful cinematography; (3) an unusual and refreshing reverence for God, the Bible and Christian thought and (4) a better portrayal by Robert Duvall of Robert E. Lee than Martin Sheen's version in "Gettsyburg." On the point 3, all it was - to those atheists/agnostics who were offended by Jackson's reverence - was showing an accurate portrayal of how people thought and believed back then in the south. That's simply the way it was and the way people viewed everyday life, though Biblical standards and language. So kudos, to the filmmakers here for at least giving us an accurate description of the times, even though they probably don't share those beliefs. Of course, the critics - almost all of them secular - hated the film.
One thing I did miss from "Gettysburg" was a bigger role from Jeff Daniels, who was so good as "Col.Chamberlain." His role here in that capacity is limited.
In summary, an accurate film with ideals and worthy of anyone's collection, particularly if they are Civil War buffs, but a movie that needed more punch to it to be more "watchable."
14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Working title: How the CSA actually won, 15 September 2008
Author: douglas lally from Hoboken, NJ
If you knew absolutely nothing about the American Civil War you might
come away from Gods and Generals believing something like this: A
madman named Lincoln decides one day in 1861 to raise an army to invade
several southern states because he just feels like doing that. The
people of these states have no choice but to start their own country to
defend themselves and a polite, bearded, man named Lee leads them and
this other polite, bearded, man Jackson too. Because god is on their
side, the kind, virtuous, heroic, and excessively chivalrous men of the
southern army prevail in several engagements against the godless,
sex-crazed, murderous barbarians of the north. Jackson and Lee deftly
direct the outnumbered army of Christ against the unwashed Yankee
heathen and wins the war except that he got shot by one of his own men
by accident and dies otherwise the south won.
Yep, that's just what you might believe.
Gods and Generals is a confused, heavily pro-Confederate, train wreck. It attempts to span two years of the war though the perspective of General Thoams "Stonewall" Jackson, arguably one of the most brilliant field commanders West Point has ever produced. Like it's antecedent Gettysburg it is of epic length except that Gettysburg made sense. This film is all over the place. Focuses on non-pivotal battle scenes and is bloated with nonsensical dialog and close ups of men talking to themselves in archaic,sanctimonious, soliloquies. There are no issues, there are no cassus belli,no internal conflicts, there is only a clumsy and amateurish elevation of the confederacy; an embattled yet righteous society defending their way of life against their tyrannical northern overlords. Or so you would be led to believe. There is one mention of Fort Sumter, a passing nod or two to slavery, and the rest is the Lee/Jackson traveling show. Overall a sloppy and weakly constructed PSA for why the south should have won the war.
To it's credit, it does have very graphic and disturbing battle scenes where both sides are, at times, honored and portrayed with equanimity.
However, G&G, like Gettysburg, had potential to evenly instruct and entertain. That's where the similarities between the two films ends Gods and generals is a ponderous and poorly edited, rambling, confusing, tribute to the CSA. Aside from it's endless length it jumps around way too much, lacks proper character development and historical veracity. It is no wonder it bombed at the box office. It's just not very watchable, at least not in one sitting. It might be of interest to those, like myself, who are interested in civil war films. This one is a grave disappointment.
24 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Great visuals, but where's the drama?, 29 May 2004
Author: Roland E. Zwick (firstname.lastname@example.org) from United States
`Gods and Generals' plays less like a movie and more like a
three-hour-and-49-minute long lesson in Civil War history. Grueling and
plodding, the film is almost the antithesis of `Gone With the Wind,' in that
while both films are epic tales told from the viewpoint of the defeated
South, `Gods and Generals' (unlike the earlier film) has been essentially
drained of all emotion, drama and characterization. `Gods and Generals' may
be a more `realistic' war film than `Gone With the Wind' (what wouldn't
be?), but it's not nearly as entertaining.
`Gods and Generals,' which begins right after the firing on Fort Sumter and ends shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg, is the first part of a planned trilogy. Despite a handful of `name' players in the cast (Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, Mira Sorvino and even Ted Turner in a ludicrous cameo appearance), writer/director Ronald F. Maxwell is unable to bring a single character in his film to convincing life (with the possible exception of `Stonewall' Jackson, who gets to carry the burden of what little drama the film has almost single-handedly). In lieu of dialogue, the actors spend most of their time looking wistfully up to heaven or scanning the mist-shrouded horizon while delivering endless homilies about the rightness of the cause and the place of God in human affairs. To keep it all palatable for more enlightened and egalitarian-minded modern audiences, the filmmakers are quick to have the Southern characters declare that, even though the South is forced to fight against the North to protect its God-given right to sovereignty, they, as individuals, are all personally opposed to slavery as an institution and firmly believe that their resident blacks will be freed someday as a matter of course. Hell, the Northerners in this film seem more prejudiced against black people than the Southerners, who just can't say enough good things about their sycophantic slaves.
The battle scenes, though well staged and appropriately graphic in nature, are strangely unmoving, primarily because we have no emotional stake in any of the characters we see doing the fighting. Without anyone for us to focus on and care about, the audience becomes little more than curious bystanders, passive and unengaged observers of this brutal display of ritualized slaughter. Although the visuals are splendid throughout, the musical score, except in a few places, is like a thick, heavy syrup poured over the entire film.
By providing subtitled identification of the principal people, places, dates and battles, `Gods and Generals' does provide a service as a history lesson of sorts. As a drama, however, the film is woefully lacking in every way imaginable. `Gods and Generals' may thrill the heart of the diehard Civil War buff. The rest of us will have to stick to our dreams of Scarlett and Rhett, and of a romanticized vision of the South that only a Golden Age Hollywood mogul would have dared come up with.
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
period detail, but overlong, sentimental, and unclear as to its message., 19 February 2010
Author: andrew-lyall from Ireland
The period detail is impressive and clearly most effort went into its creation, and the actors make what they can of it, but it is far too long, not enough action and sickly sentimental. It did present the extent to which public figures at the time were motivated in their own conscious mind by religion, including generals, but given the fact that the South was fighting to maintain slavery, the message seemed confused. As someone said, just as you do not judge a person by what they think of themselves, you cannot judge an age by its consciousness. Jackson and others may have been convinced that God was on their side, but how exactly did they square that with support for a system that had already been abolished in the British Empire? The United States was the last but one country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery (Brazil being the last). Are we supposed to take their false moralizing at face value, or is this a satire? Hard to tell. It may be an effort to contrast Jackson's of his grief for the death of the little girl with his apparent enthusiasm for setting thousands of young men to kill each other, but if so, the scene with the girl and the family are far too long to make that point. Jackson appears to be a monster, but was that what the director intended? For all the effort, not half the film which Gettysburg was. Gettysburg concentrated more on the bravery of ordinary soldiers, and in some instances, their equivocal feelings, to better effect.
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