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Author Topic: Gods and Generals (2003)  (Read 9096 times)
Groggy
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« Reply #30 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.

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #31 on: March 10, 2011, 11:25:24 AM »

It's a vexed question. From Wikipedia:
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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.

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« Reply #32 on: March 10, 2011, 02:19:17 PM »

Okay, now let's discuss to the March to the Sea.

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« Reply #33 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.

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« Reply #34 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.

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« Reply #35 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.

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« Reply #36 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

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Groggy
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« Reply #37 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/

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.

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