Sergio Leone Web Board

Films of Sergio Leone => Other Films => Topic started by: tucumcari bound on September 01, 2008, 01:23:22 AM



Title: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: tucumcari bound on September 01, 2008, 01:23:22 AM

Gods and Generals follows the rise and fall of legendary war hero Lt. Gen. Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson (Stephen Lang). The prequel to the 1993 hit Gettysburg.

Being the history buff that I am, Civil War history is something I'm into quite a bit. However, I've put off "Gods and Generals" since it was released because of the mixed-reviews that it's received.

I'm sure there's some here who've seen this. If so, I'd like to read some of your thoughts. Thank you!

Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, and Mira Sorvino also star.

(http://www.moviegoods.com/Assets/product_images/1020/200622.1020.A.jpg)


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on September 01, 2008, 06:57:18 AM
Loved the subject matter. Hated the execution. Saw it with my dad; he liked it.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Tuco the ugly on September 01, 2008, 07:25:53 AM
Worth watching, mainly because of Stephen Lang.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on September 01, 2008, 11:05:31 AM
I saw it in theaters, which is really IMO the only way to see this. I was really blown away, and strangely, so was my brother. I have it on DVD, but I believe I've only watched it the whole way through once on video - although I occasionally watch the battle-scenes on their own.

It's way too long, and there are many, many bits which could have been cut out to no ill-effect (pretty much ANY of the scenes with Jackson and the Virginia family, or at lot of the pointless supporting characters). Strangely, given the film's focus, it also skips over a lot of important subject matter, like Jackson's Valley Campaign, the Seven Days', and Antietam (which was filmed but cut out at the last minute). Jumping more or less straight from Bull Run to Fredericksburg was a big mistake, IMO, especially given the length of the film. The unabashedly pro-Southern viewpoint might bother some, although I didn't find it particularly offensive. On the other hand, it's a lot more cinematic than its predecessor, Gettysburg (which was, of course, a miniseries expanded to film length), in terms of battles, production values, cinematography, etc. The battle scenes are all fantastic, particularly the clash of the Irish Brigades at Fredericksburg and the whole Chancellorsville sequence. Randy Edelman's score is excellent, too. Stephen Lang is phenomenal as Stonewall Jackson; the rest of the cast is merely okay (Robert Duvall is a great Lee, but he has little to do, and Jeff Daniels is shunted to the background for most of the story). I'd give it a 7/10, 10/10 for the battle scenes but a 4 or 5 for the rest of it.

The worst thing about it is that it was such a stupendous failure, that the last part of the trilogy, The Last Full Measure, will probably never be made - at least with the original cast members, or any time in the near-future.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: tucumcari bound on September 02, 2008, 11:55:22 AM

jenkins, Tuco and Groggy. Thanks for the insight into the film. I'll definitely check it out at some point.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: The Firecracker on February 28, 2011, 12:04:16 AM
Extended cut is coming in May.
http://gcaggiano.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/directors-cuts-of-gods-and-generals-and-gettysburg-to-arrive-in-stores-may-24/
Both formats blu ray and regular.

Can I get a Hoo Ha! ?


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on February 28, 2011, 02:32:43 PM
I'm interested in seeing the Antietam footage. Otherwise I'll pass.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Dust Devil on February 28, 2011, 10:51:42 PM
Can I get a Hoo Ha! ?

You'd like that, wouldn't you.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: The Firecracker on March 02, 2011, 10:04:04 PM
You'd like that, wouldn't you.

For the sake of tradition, yes.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Dust Devil on March 02, 2011, 11:38:05 PM
For the sake of tradition, yes.

Hoo









































































Ha!


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: The Firecracker on March 03, 2011, 01:39:56 PM
Thanks




















































































for making my day.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 03, 2011, 01:40:26 PM
Groggy's review is spot on. But I also wondered throughout the vision if Jackson's wife was as ugly as the actress portraying it in the movie (Kali Rocha). Even if she was (can't find photos in the net)  they might have taken some liberty like they took with Jackson, who is made to look like Welles in Arkadin. As already pointed out by Groggy, these scenes are superfluous, but if they had to stay there they might have given them some beauty.
I was impressed by the suicidal tactics the Union army adopted and which were perfected in WWI. This rehabilitates Indians runaround tactics when assaulting pioneers convoys.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 03, 2011, 02:49:06 PM
The release of Gettysburg and G&G on the same day is extremely fortunate. As you may remember, the actor Stephen Lang is in both films: he plays Pickett in Gettysburg, and Jackson in G&G. A new generation of unsuspecting viewers are about to get both barrels of Jenkins's latest Evil Twin theory! >:D


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 04, 2011, 09:30:08 AM
I was impressed by the suicidal tactics the Union army adopted and which were perfected in WWI. This rehabilitates Indians runaround tactics when assaulting pioneers convoys.

As GBU shows, this was even worse in the later days of the war as trench warfare gained prominence. Something like 10,000 people died in ten minutes at Cold Harbor, if memory serves. It's a pity that military leaders learned almost nothing from the US Civil War.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 04, 2011, 01:40:11 PM
There wasn't anything to learn UNTIL new technology made new tactics possible (as for example the introduction of tanks, aircraft, etc.).


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 04, 2011, 03:51:45 PM
In the documentary on Jackson in the dvd pictures of his two wives are shown. Well the actress in the movie looks very much like his first wife, the second being passable and for the times, probably a beauty. It's possible that when casting somebody got the matter mixed up.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 04, 2011, 07:28:54 PM
I didn't think Kali Rocha was that bad-looking.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 04, 2011, 07:52:04 PM
I didn't think Kali Rocha was that bad-looking.


(http://images.tvrage.com/people/6/16938.jpg#Kali+Rocha)


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 04, 2011, 08:17:08 PM
Meh. Not a gorgeous woman to be sure, but not exactly hideous either.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 05, 2011, 04:28:29 PM
There wasn't anything to learn UNTIL new technology made new tactics possible (as for example the introduction of tanks, aircraft, etc.).

Shelby Foote affirms, in one of the extras of the dvd, that tactics stood behind the technological progress (represented basically, at the time, by the rifle).  I don't think he uses that word carelessly. Same with Fuller's Decisive Battles (I checked it today). And it is apparent by watching these movies that tactics in use were stale, if not ridiculous. 


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 05, 2011, 05:09:01 PM
Tactics and technology go hand-in-hand. Rifling meant that volleying was no longer necessary because individual soldiers could fire with great accuracy; the greater battlefield lethality produced made cover and concealment necessary (something earlier tacticians didn't worry about), hence the trenches; but you can only hold ground with entrenchment, you couldn't take ground, and taking ground is the sine qua non of war; so, men had to charge entrenched positions even though it was costly; but, the tactic could be successful, provided you had plenty of men and weren't squeamish about expending great numbers of them; however, with the advent of the machine gun, even a general commanding millions could gain nothing but casualties by hurtling waves of men against prepared positions. Armor, and greater mobility, were required, and by the end of WWI technology met those requirements. Also, the fledgling aviation technology took time to develop and it was not immediately obvious how it could best be used. The idea that troops could be inserted into an engagement by airlift (first by airplanes, now by helicopters) took time to develop, but when such a tactic was adopted the concept of the non-linear battlefield was born. Make no mistake, though: at every step of the way, tactics lagged behind the technology.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 05, 2011, 06:11:06 PM
An interesting comment Jenkins, but not entirely accurate. The option of maneuver was usually open to armies, avoiding face-to-face, headlong charges into massed rifle/artillery/machine gun fire. Grant was quite good at this in his early campaigns, especially Vicksburg, and Jackson, Sheridan and Sherman showed that this sort of battle could be avoided with great success.

Also, notions of pride and prestige shouldn't be discounted either. Countries were slow to adopt modern weapons and even uniforms because the perceived glory of bayonet and cavalry charges outweighed practical concerns. Hence the British wearing the scarlet uniforms up until 1881, and the French army going into action in 1914 wearing blue shirts with bright red pantaloons. Hence also the refusal, as late as the '30s, of the British to replace horse cavalry with tanks.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 05, 2011, 06:20:56 PM
Tactics and technology go hand-in-hand.  Make no mistake, though: at every step of the way, tactics lagged behind the technology.

As non-linear as can be.



Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 06, 2011, 10:39:12 AM
An interesting comment Jenkins, but not entirely accurate. The option of maneuver was usually open to armies, avoiding face-to-face, headlong charges into massed rifle/artillery/machine gun fire. Grant was quite good at this in his early campaigns, especially Vicksburg, and Jackson, Sheridan and Sherman showed that this sort of battle could be avoided with great success.
Avoiding battle is not the path to victory. The whole point of combat is to join with the enemy and defeat him. Maneuver is the foreplay, carnage the consummation.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 06, 2011, 11:33:05 AM
As non-linear as can be.
No. Two dancers may dance hand-in-hand, but only one can lead.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 06, 2011, 12:12:12 PM
and taking ground is the sine qua non of war

...as Napoleon in 1812 and Hitler in 1941  inconfutably proved.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: titoli on March 06, 2011, 12:35:03 PM
No. Two dancers may dance hand-in-hand, but only one can lead.
Yes, but the partner isn't supposed to just lag behind.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 06, 2011, 02:35:02 PM
Not supposed to, no. I never said the situation was ideal.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 06, 2011, 05:08:06 PM
Avoiding battle is not the path to victory.

How many major battles did Sherman fight in his March to the Sea?


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 09, 2011, 06:08:17 AM
How many was he offered?


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 09, 2011, 09:23:55 AM
How many was he offered?

Exactly. By your logic he should have followed Hood north instead of marching to Savannah.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 10, 2011, 11:25:24 AM
It's a vexed question. From Wikipedia:
Quote
Sherman's victory was qualified because it did not fulfill the original mission of the campaign—destroy the Army of Tennessee—and Sherman has been criticized for allowing his opponent to escape. However, the capture of Atlanta made an enormous contribution to Northern morale and was an important factor in the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln.
Sometimes strategic concerns trump tactical imperatives.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 10, 2011, 02:19:17 PM
Okay, now let's discuss to the March to the Sea.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 12, 2011, 03:03:06 PM
Hood took most of the fighting men out of the state, leaving Georgia lightly defended. Sherman proceeded practically unopposed.

The failure was Hood's.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on March 12, 2011, 04:20:56 PM
Hood took most of the fighting men out of the state, leaving Georgia lightly defended. Sherman proceeded practically unopposed.

The failure was Hood's.

And we're back to square one.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: dave jenkins on March 13, 2011, 10:43:06 AM
Well, yeah. I was talking about tactics. You want to talk about strategy. They are two different things.


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on April 27, 2011, 11:53:19 AM
In case you didn't see my little rant on the RTLMYS thread...

Quote
Childhood nostalgia is a fickle thing. Some things you liked as a kid still evoke pleasant memories of a simpler time, while others are frankly embarrassing. I'll never lose my affection for Jurassic Park or the Goosebumps books, but I refuse to even think about Pokemon or the Spice Girls.

I was a bit older than that when I saw Gods and Generals (2003) in theaters with my brother. Yes, at least two people saw Gods and Generals in theaters. As a budding Civil War buff, I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Rewatching it again almost ten years later, I sadly find it to be a dull, obnoxious piece of dreck. Watching it back to back with Ron Maxwell's previous Civil War epic, Gettysburg, makes the deficiencies more obvious.

The United States stands on the verge of Civil War, with Southern states leaving the Union in a dispute over slavery. Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall) turns down an offer to command the Union Army when his home state of Virginia secedes. Thomas J. Jackson (Stephen Lang), an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute, raises a crack brigade which he leads with distinction at Bull Run, earning the sobriquet "Stonewall." Meanwhile, Bowdoin College instructor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) enlists in the Union Army and becomes the Lt. Colonel of the 20th Maine regiment. Events shift to the December 1862 Fredericksburg Campaign, where Union General Burnside (Alex Hyde-White) leads charge after suicidal charge against well-entrenched Rebels, and finally the May 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, where Jackson executes a brilliant flank attack - but also meets a tragic end.

On one level, at least, Gods and Generals is more cinematic than its predecessor. With a much larger budget than Gettysburg ($65 million vs. $25 m.), there's no chance of Gods and Generals being mistaken for an overblown miniseries. The battle scenes are even more impressive than Gettysburg's, attaining full cinematic grandeur and a real sense of scope, if not the gritty realism of Glory's battles. The best scene is a skirmish between the Union Irish Brigade and a Confederate Irish regiment, an extremely emotional and affecting set-piece. The Chancellorsville scenes are equally impressive in scale and staging. However, spectacle is only part of the film.

Gods and Generals, the novel, is not a literary masterpiece but it's good historical fiction. Rather than Jeff Shaara's ensemble approach, Maxwell focuses on Stonewall Jackson, whom he depicts as a military genius, religious fanatic and devoted family man. Most of this rings true, but in beatifying Stonewall, Maxwell cuts out both the nastier edges of his character - say, his feud with Stonewall Brigade commander Richard Garnett - and, perversely, his more interesting exploits in the Shenandoah Valley, making Jackson a flat and uninteresting cipher.

The movie botches the slavery-vs.-states-rights issue. Maxwell gives us token black characters (Frankie Faison, Donzaleigh Abernathy) who decry slavery, with Jackson assuring them that they'll be free one day. Statements by Lee, Jackson and Virginia politicians that the war is fought against Federal tyranny go virtually unchallenged. Ahistorical scenes like Union artillery shelling Fredericksburg civilians don't help. The historical Jackson had no love of slavery, but surely there's a more honest way to convey this debate? A few anti-slavery speeches by Chamberlain don't adequately balance this viewpoint, least of all with Jackson's protracted death and extravagant funeral. Gettysburg avoided this messy topic with its relatively neutral approach. By focusing on Jackson, Gods and Generals becomes a Lost Cause apologia.

The structure of the film is a real mess. Despite the ostensible focus on Jackson, the movie begins with Lee's fateful trip to Washington and the narrative flits all over the place. We don't meet Chamberlain until about an hour in, and battle scenes are interspersed with stale, forced melodrama and pompous proclamations of purpose. Maxwell skips over Jackson's exploits in the Valley (not to mention the Seven Days' Battles and Antietam) to focus on Fredericksburg, the purpose of which seems to be shoehorning in some token Yankees. The Fredericksburg scene goes on interminably: by the time Chamberlain's 20th Maine finally goes into action, we've already seen three attacks by General Hancock's (Brian Mallon) division falter. Where's the drama? Why spend so much time on the war's most one-sided battle?

Not helping matters, Maxwell crams the film with pointless vignettes of Southern life and soldiers' travails. These provided some of the highlights of Gettysburg, but merely bog this film down in forced pathos. There's a wonderful scene of Union and Confederate pickets exchanging goods, but this is the exception. When two soldiers we met briefly in the first hour get killed at Chancellorsville, we don't even recognize them. A VMI cadet who defies his father, enlists with Jackson and is much later executed for desertion serves no purpose because those are his only scenes. The worst is Jackson's friendship with an aggressively cute Virginia girl, a subplot that defines cloying.

The basic problem is this: Gettysburg had trouble fitting a three-day battle into its run-time. How could Gods and Generals hope to cram three years of war into a four-hour in film? The material screams for a miniseries treatment, and despite its handsome photography and epic scope the film is a congested, underdeveloped mess. There are persistent rumors of a director's cut with additional battle scenes, but I shudder at the prospect of watching a longer version of this film.

Stephen Lang is dependably fiery, and getting to see this great actor in a lead role is a treat. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, is weak. Jeff Daniels brings back some of his thoughtful intensity, Kali Rocha is sweet as Jackson's wife and Brian Mallon expands on his role as Hancock. Robert Duvall is a much better physical match for Lee than Martin Sheen, but his Lee is a talking statue, an emotionless visage with a quip for every occasion. Bruce Boxleitner is a poor replacement for Tom Berenger, and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aprophdite), Alex Hyde-White (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and William Sanderson (Blade Runner) have roles that barely qualify as cameos. Many actors from Gettysburg - Kevin Conway, C. Thomas Howell, Joseph Fuqua, Patrick Gorman, William Morgan Shepherd - reprise their roles, to little effect.

Unfortunately, Gods and Generals is a treacly, pompous mess. I'd say it was for Civil War buffs only, but I'm a pretty big Civil War buff and found it dull. I can only imagine what I lay viewer would take away from it. Except my brother; he liked it. 4/10

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2011/04/gods-and-generals.html (http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2011/04/gods-and-generals.html)


Title: Re: Gods and Generals (2003)
Post by: Groggy on May 14, 2011, 07:29:33 AM
Review/analysis of the new director's cut:

http://gcaggiano.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/movie-review-the-extended-directors-cut-of-gods-and-generals/ (http://gcaggiano.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/movie-review-the-extended-directors-cut-of-gods-and-generals/)

For those not inclined to read a long, in-depth analysis:

- A new, in-depth subplot with John Wilkes Booth. (What the hell?)

- More scenes with supporting characters. (Hancock, Hood, Longstreet, Adelbert Ames)

- A lengthy section on Antietam that includes additional combat footage.

- A few bits trimmed or re-edited, but nothing major.

- The really bad news: the scenes of Jackson and the Virginia family are even longer!

I think I'll pass.