Serves its purpose as an introductory movie to the Battles of Manassas
As someone who took part in the filming of End of Innocence, both the cast and crew were selflessly devoted to telling the stories of the two famous battles of the Civil War with as much historical accuracy as possible - but the script falls short of the real story. Ben Burtt, the Academy Award-winning sound designer from the Star Wars movies, E.T., Indiana Jones movies and the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, teamed up with writer Ray Herbeck to produce a "realistic" movie for the National Park Service that would inform the public what happened in the two famous battles of Manassas or Bull Run, fought in July 1861 and August 1862 respectively.
The movie is narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and his voice certainly adds to the quality of the movie. The script focuses on a few individuals - some civilian and some military figures and takes you through the battles from their perspective. However, the selection of some lesser-known individuals hurts the movie because it ignores more important figures who played more prominent roles in the two battles, men like Generals McDowell, Beauregard, Pope and Longstreet. These men should have been the focus of the movie. In addition, the movie ignores key points of the battles, like the capture of Charles Griffin's guns by the 33rd Virginia in the first battle or the fighting on Chinn Ridge in the Second Battle. Overall, too much emphasis is placed on the First Battle of Manassas (about 90% of the movie), while the Second Battle, which was much bloodier and larger than the first battle, is almost an aside. There is almost no talk of why the two armies are back again for the second battle. The movie neglects to use any maps of the fighting - very important tools if one is to understand the two battles. Finally, most battle scenes show groups of 10-20 guys fighting eachother, when they should show hundreds, if not thousands of men, slugging it out. I understand there were financial restraints on the making of the movie, but the lack of computer generated "soldiers" make the legendary battle scenes look like bar-room brawls.
In conclusion, the movie will indeed entertain the public, but it will be up to visitors to Manassas National Battlefield Park to do their own reading on the battles to truly understand the horrific events of those days long ago.
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